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Coronavirus emergency aid worldwide: Current preventive measures in Myanmar and Syria

14. April 2020 - World
First the good news. We are pleased to take this credo of crisis communication as an opportunity to report on our activities in connection with health care and hygiene measures to prevent or combat Covid-19. Because in addition to the many negative headlines, which reach us far too often these days and weeks, we even have positive news to report. For example from Myanmar, where the usual project activities in the field of water, sanitation and hygiene were adapted and implemented in a very short time.

Awareness campaign in Myanmar

Since the end of March, extensive education campaigns have been implemented in the Lashio region, focusing on keeping people at a distance, coughing and sneezing in the crook of their arms, and ensuring regular hand hygiene. To make sure that everyone really understands how dangerous the coronavirus is and how it spreads, our colleagues from arche noVa, together with their local partner organisation SMDO, have had 44 posters and 2000 brochures printed in five languages. The most important information is now available in Chinese, Kachin, Shan, Burmese and English, enriched with symbols and pictures to achieve the greatest possible understanding among the people in the region. Besides printed information material, the most important information is also sent by SMS.

In addition to this large-scale educational campaign, almost 5000 pieces of soap have been distributed in a total of 30 villages around Lashio since last week. This will enable 1620 households to protect themselves from infection with the virus for a while with good hand hygiene.

Similar measures like these in Lashio are also taking place in other areas of our project areas in Myanmar, such as Rakhine State.

Protective masks for the Ministry of Health

Even the Ministry of Health contacted arche noVa with the request to get urgently needed face masks, which had been sold out on the local markets for days and could not be procured anywhere. On 30 March arche noVa was able to hand over a delivery of 1000 face masks in Lashio, which were directly forwarded to medical staff such as nurses, carers and midwives in rural areas to ensure the care of the people there.


portrait of Ralf Thill

While in the first years the focus was particularly on emergency relief measures following earthquakes and cyclones that regularly hit the country, in recent years hygiene measures and crisis prevention have increasingly moved to the forefront. This has now enabled us to quickly adapt programmes to the current situation and to support the Government of Myanmar and, of course, the people in the sometimes difficult to access areas of the country in containing COVID-19.

Ralf Thill, Head of Mission for arche noVa Myanmar

Hygiene an existential issue in Syria as well

Apart from Myanmar, this time our positive news also comes from Syria, where the usual WASH activities were very quickly extended to include coronavirus education and special hygiene measures.

"We have extensively informed our colleagues in Idlib about Covid-19 and corresponding preventive measures and introduced safety rules. Part of the team now operates from their home office, in the office they wear face masks and gloves, work surfaces and floors are regularly disinfected," explains Wolfram Lorenz, our project manager for the Middle East.

The situation in Idlib is still very critical due to the high number of refugees and catastrophic housing conditions. Therefore, it was particularly important for our team that the regular relief efforts are affected by the Corona pandemic as little as possible. Due to special hygiene rules the amount of water distributed per person was increased, in addition soap is distributed and educational material on Covid-19. In order to comply with the necessary distance rules for the regular distribution of food packages, the number of distribution points was increased to reduce the number of people at each location.

"We are also prepared for the case of a complete lockdown, in which the aid supplies will be delivered directly to the front door," says Wolfram Lorenz, Desk Officer Middle East.

The official case numbers for Syria are still very low according to WHO. This may be due to the fact that hardly any testing has taken place so far, at least in the Idlib region, says our Head of Mission Syria, Wael Khedr, who from Dresden is in close contact with our team on site.

"For our staff, fear has been a constant companion for years - but while they used to be able to hide or pray from approaching bombers, the danger is now no longer visible. The virus could be anywhere and is therefore much more threatening," says Wael Khedr.

Activities urgently needed

In order to keep the effects as manageable as possible, arche noVa does everything to keep the relief efforts going as far as possible and to support the team as best as possible. Because as dramatic as the situation is here in Germany, in countries and regions that are affected by need, poverty and war anyway, it hits the people much harder. Distance and hygiene, the two central factors in containing the spread of the virus, are not possible in the overcrowded refugee shelters and tent cities. The people there are already weakened by malnutrition and disease, and have little access to health care. So solidarity must go on.

Further Information

  • Corona activities of arche noVa in Iraq: In the beginning of March, the first hygiene measures were already in place here, which, however, had to be stopped for the time being in the course of the shutdown. Our current news of 11.3.2020
  • Global overview on Corona: The World Health Organization provides information on the Internet