COVID-19: Response in the Middle East
International Medical Corps recently resumed providing assistance to women, children and men on the Gaza strip. Our team on the ground is screening individuals and refers suspected cases for COVID-19 testing. Using our mobile medical units, we also are distributing hygiene kits and raising awareness about how to prevent and mitigate spread of the disease. In addition, we are providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection prevention and control (IPC) supplies to partner organisations.
In light of recent displacement camp closures, International Medical Corps’ team in Iraq has implemented new routes to access those in need. The team is providing frontline health workers with PPE, ensuring their safety as they continue delivering primary healthcare services to IDPs and host populations in camp and non-camp settings across the country. We distributed 871,608 PPE and IPC items to International Medical Corps-supported centres, safe spaces for women and girls, and camps. In camps in Ninewah and Anbar provinces, our medical teams monitored new arrivals and isolated suspected COVID-19 patients in designated quarantine areas. The team has also secured additional PPE and is delivering training to frontline health workers on COVID-19 prevention and management, to ensure the safety of staff and beneficiaries as program activities continue. So far, 24 facilities that International Medical Corps supports have screened more than 206,724 people for COVID-19 symptoms. Additionally, the team has conducted 65 training sessions—both in-person and virtually—for more than 1,397 participants.
The community outreach team is using in-person sessions, social media and radio broadcasting to raise awareness about the risks of COVID-19 and how to prevent it. Through these activities, the team has reached 106,013 beneficiaries with COVID-19 awareness messaging. To improve the well-being of those affected by the pandemic, our mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) team is remotely conducting case management and follow-up, including awareness about how to cope with stress. To reach as wide an audience as possible, our MHPSS teams are using social media platforms to disseminate key messages. With the increased risk of gender-based violence (GBV) for women and girls who may be confined at home with abusers, the women and girls’ safe spaces in the camps that we support in Mosul have remained open, with physical distancing and hand hygiene measures in place to help prevent transmission of COVID-19. GBV case management is also being provided remotely via phones or WhatsApp to survivors who consent to such follow-ups.
International Medical Corps’ team in Jordan continues to operate vital lifesaving health services across the country. The team is playing a central role in coordinating vaccination efforts now underway in Azraq and Zaatari refugee camps, including raising awareness about the vaccine among refugee communities. All other health services in Azraq and Zaatari, as well as in Irbid, remain ongoing, with non-lifesaving services—including outpatient sexual and reproductive health—resumed to full capacity. International Medical Corps is also providing a range of COVID-19-related services to an estimated 40,000 Azraq Refugee Camp residents, where cases have now been confirmed. In particular, working with camp management, International Medical Corps has deployed a medical team to the camp’s entry and exit points to measure the temperature of all entering or exiting. Since March 2020, we have screened 318,546 people.
In addition, our teams have distributed 1,341,557 PPE and IPC items to staff and beneficiaries using International Medical Corps facilities. Within Azraq, International Medical Corps has established a 50-patient isolation area and has created an area where immediate treatment can be provided to suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases. In addition, our health team in the camp continues to provide awareness sessions on COVID-19 to residents, reaching more than 83,000 community residents as well as NGO and security staff. Working with the Ministry of Health and the Jordanian Psychiatrist Society, our mental health team has established a 24/7 psychosocial support hotline in Jordan to respond to the growing mental health needs in the face of COVID-19. As curfew restrictions now have been lifted in the country, our team in Jordan has resumed in-person mental health consultations, as well as child protection and nutrition services for refugees and vulnerable Jordanians. However, we continue to conduct all group psychosocial-support activities remotely, in accordance with government regulations.
The explosion in Beirut and the easing of COVID-19 precautionary measures have increased transmission rates of the virus. The Lebanon team is working to link our response to COVID-19 to our explosion response. In the wake of the Beirut explosion, we distributed 488,940 PPE items to primary health clinics, hospitals and mobile medical units in the Beirut area. We delivered masks, gloves and gowns to 27 healthcare facilities, as well as other medical supplies to 23 of these. We also delivered PPE to more than 2,000 volunteers working to remove debris and repair damaged homes. Before the blast, our team had developed a COVID-19 contingency plan to address disruptions caused by the outbreak and related restrictions on movement. This involved procuring additional PPE and IPC supplies—including hand sanitiser, sterilization alcohol, gloves, masks and soap—to protect frontline health workers. The team has also raised awareness about COVID-19 among community residents and provided psychological first-aid training to frontline workers.
We are collaborating closely with the government and partner NGOs, participating in sub-working groups of national COVID-19 taskforces. So far, 81 facilities that we support have screened 431,382 individuals for COVID-19 symptoms. We have also distributed more than 2.9 million PPE and IPC items to International Medical Corps-supported centers and safe spaces for women and girls. Furthermore, we have organized COVID-19 awareness-raising training sessions, reaching 83,448 community residents. In Tripoli and Akkar, we are the health lead for rapid response teams in both cities, an initiative coordinated by UNHCR that works to mitigate the spread and damage caused by the virus in refugee communities. Our team is also developing activities and guidance for MHPSS support during the pandemic. Working alongside the Lebanon Ministry of Health, International Medical Corps is preparing to support vaccination efforts in the country, focusing on raising awareness among vulnerable groups about the vaccine.
International Medical Corps’ team in Damascus continues to distribute hand sanitiser to beneficiaries who attend COVID-19 awareness sessions. To ensure the safety of staff, we provide PPE and similar supplies to essential workers at our clinics. The team has provided thousands of bars of soap to rural areas near Damascus for immediate distribution and has contributed to hygiene campaigns by providing vehicles and raising awareness about COVID-19. The team is redirecting some supplies previously planned for use within regular programming to a COVID-specific response in schools coordinated by UNICEF, donating hundreds of thousands of bars of soap to two NGOs partners of the Ministry of Education for distribution to students in four governorates. So far, 297,021 bars have been distributed.
Due to the increased COVID-19 infection risk in health facilities, and to ease the pressure on public hospital ICUs, the Ministry of Health has decided that medically qualified patients can continue treatment at home. To support the early discharge of such patients, International Medical Corps is providing them with lifesaving medical equipment—including oxygen concentrators, aspirator devices, nebulizers and pulse oximeters—through two local partners, assisting 395 discharged patients since early March. In June, as government hospitals resumed a range of non-essential medical services, the team continued to provide individual assistance to non-COVID cases—especially those with disabilities, including the supply of hearing devices, prosthesis and orthosis. In July, the team provided online psychosocial first-aid training, aiming to strengthen psychological intervention skills during emergencies.
In September, the team also donated PPE and IPC items—including 465,000 face masks, 310,000 disposable gloves, 1,120 hand sanitisers, 585 thermometers and 24,500 goggles—to five government institutions. Working with our partners as well as the Turkish government, we have trained 82 people in IPC, including the proper use of PPE. The team has adapted existing mental health, protection and physical rehabilitation services to respond to increased needs and context changes related to the pandemic, and continues to provide these services through phone and video calls. Since March, 8,754 beneficiaries have taken part in COVID-related awareness sessions and COVID-focused mental health awareness sessions. During this time, a call center operated by our partner has received thousands of calls, reaching beneficiaries across more than 60 cities in Turkey. In addition, we have reached several thousand people through protection and mental health awareness sessions tailored to the pandemic. Since June, the team has reached 1,397 of the most vulnerable households, providing food and sanitary kits in 26 different provinces. International Medical Corps and our local partner also have helped residents of İzmir affected by the magnitude 6.6 earthquake in October, distributing 105,000 masks, 830 emergency hygiene kits, 1,000 COVID-19 test kits and 285 kitchen stoves, reaching 10,000 people sheltering in emergency camps.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and Population, our healthcare team is sharing COVID-19 case management and education guidelines with health facility staff. We have trained 431 frontline health workers, community health volunteers and staff on COVID-19 case management and prevention methods. We also provided 39 health facilities with cleaning materials—including gloves, waterproof overalls and soap—to strengthen infection protection and control. Also in collaboration with the ministry, we have trained community health volunteers (CHVs) on how to prevent and treat COVID-19, providing them with related materials to distribute within in their communities, reaching more than 880 residents, as well as to health facilities that we support in Sana’a. Despite the global shortage of protective equipment, our team in Yemen has been able to source and distribute 727,079 PPE and IPC items—including masks, gloves, gowns, sanitisers and soap—to health facilities, health workers and other staff members. In addition, we donated 16,000 N95 masks to an NGO that runs treatment centres for those diagnosed with moderate to severe cases of COVID-19. These centres had been in danger of shutting down operations due to the lack of PPE. We are helping another NGO, the Danish Refugee Council, implement an innovative concept called community shielding, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in crowded camp conditions.
All International Medical Corps-supported health facilities continue to provide care, so far screening 183,270 people for COVID-19 and referring 6,067 patients suspected to have the disease. In addition, we have reached 8,822 people with COVID-19 information through our Child Nutrition in Emergencies program. We are also raising awareness about COVID-19 in hard-to-reach areas and households without radio or television coverage by using vehicles equipped with speakers. Five mobile units and two ambulances deployed in the south of the country provide primary health and nutrition services, as well as COVID-19 referrals, and we continue to raise awareness about COVID-19 through a variety of means, including in-person discussions, radio and print media.