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Coronavirus Pandemic: Positive stories of resilience and bravery from the Middle East this week Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Coronavirus Pandemic: Positive stories of resilience and bravery from the Middle East this week

Afghan girls are building ventilators from car parts, among other positive developments this week [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 April, 2020

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Top five stories highlighting the Middle East’s resilience in the face of coronavirus this week
As the world grapples with the pandemic, some encouraging news has emerged from the Middle East and North Africa since the start of the outbreak.

Last week, we compiled a list of regional initiatives that showed solidarity with health workers, as well as innovations aiding the sector in its fight against the virus.

Here are our five new picks for this week:

1) 'Coronavirus Radio' helps Algeria's protest movement keep its steam

A new online broadcaster is helping bring back the momentum of Algeria's popular protest movement in the wake of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

US-based Algerian expat Abdellah Benadouda is using Facebook to broadcast Radio Corona Internationale (RCI), a one-hour talk show to Algerians stuck at home.

The show is airing on Tuesdays and Fridays – commonly days the Hirak Movement would take to the streets in anti-government protests.

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The movement, which started last year, was losing its steam after coronavirus-hit Algeria’s authorities imposed a lockdown in March, banning all public gatherings.

As of Friday, Algeria has confirmed 2,268 coronavirus cases, resulting in a total of 348 deaths. 

According to AFP, Benadouda had fled the country in 2014 after a dispute with a local Algerian TV station. Benadouda's show was "a way to reinvent the Hirak in the time of confinement".

2) Iranian researchers studying cough patterns for alternative coronavirus diagnosis 

A team of post-grad students at the University of Tehran are researching a potential new way of diagnosing the coronavirus infection using cough patterns, a report said on Wednesday.

The Iranian university team of Masters and PhD students are being supervised by professor Reshad Hosseini, Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency (FNA) reported.

A dry cough is listed among other common symptoms of a coronavirus infection, including fever and shortness of breath.

Research executive Hadi Moradi told the Iranian agency that two US and UK universities were conducting similar studies related to the cough patterns of Covid-19 patients.

Read also: 
Pandemics and profiteers: How medical suppliers in the Middle East are exploiting the Covid-19 crisis

The Iranian research team has previously released a study on the potential diagnosis of autism among children by looking at crying patterns.

On Friday, coronavirus infections in Iran totalled 76,389, while deaths recorded reached 4,958, according to official numbers. Iranian researchers in the US estimate the numbers to be much higher than disclosed.

3) Robot-designing Afghan girls try to build ventilator 'from used car parts'

A robotics team of Afghan girls is trying to build a low-cost medical ventilator from car parts, as authorities scramble to boost the impoverished country's critical-care capabilities amid the coronavirus outbreak.

According to AFP If the Afghan teenagers secure a government approval for their prototype, they could replicate ventilators for as little as $300, compared to their normal retail price of about $30,000.

"The team is working with local health specialists, as well as experts from Harvard University, to produce the prototype based on a design by Massachusetts Institute of Technology," Roya Mahboob, who runs an Afghan tech company and sponsors the team of five girls, aged 14-17, told AFP.

The girls made headlines in 2017 after having their US visas for a robotics competition denied. According to AFP, President Donald Trump intervened and they were later allowed to travel.

4) Oldest and youngest Moroccan coronavirus patients make full recovery within hours of each other

A three-month-old baby and a 96-year-old woman have both recovered from the coronavirus in Morocco as authorities said on Monday they were working on avoiding further spread of the disease.

Mohamed El-Youbi, the director of the epidemiology department at Morocco's ministry of health told journalists at a press conference on Monday that Morocco's oldest coronavirus patient, a 96-year-old woman, had made a full recovery.

El-Youbi stressed that coronavirus was not a death sentence for elderly patients or those with serious pre-existing conditions.

On Sunday, a three-month-old baby, identified as "Sama", left the King Hassan II Hospital in the city of Fes after she was completely cured of coronavirus.

Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani tweeted that she was the youngest coronavirus patient in the North African kingdom, congratulating her parents.

As of Friday, Morocco has recorded 2,283 Covid-19 infections and 130 Deaths.

5) Malaysians invent robot nurses to help protect health workers from coronavirus exposure

A robot created by Malaysian scientists will conduct check-ups on coronavirus patients at hospitals in the country, to reduce health workers' risk of exposure, reports said.

The "MediBot," created by the International Islamic University (UIA)’s Centre for Unmanned Technologies, is equipped with cameras that can screen temperatures, lessening the need for health workers to come into close contact with contagious patients.

In its advice to limit transmission risks, the World Health Organisation warns to keep a distance of at least a metre (three feet) from people coughing or sneezing.

The robot, which stands at 1.5 metres, can also communicate remotely with medical professionals and will be tested in trials at the university's hospital before being deployed to treat patients.

According to Lowyat, a Malaysia-based technology magazine, another robot which has the ability to carry up to 300kg in its shelves - created by the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in cooperation with a robotics company and a hospital - can potentially deliver food and medicine to Covid-19 patients.

The muslim Southeast Asian country has confirmed its first case in January. Malaysia has since recorded a total of 5,182 infections, and 84 deaths resulting from Covid-19, based on Friday's figures.

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