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

A Lebanese NGO helps vulnerable groups aid others this Ramadan, among other positive developments [AFP]

Date of publication: 24 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 novel coronavirus outbreak, some encouraging news has emerged from the Middle East and North Africa since the pandemic was announced.

Last week, The New Arab shared its top five picks of positive regional advancements in the fight against the pandemic. 

Here is our selection from this week, which marked the start of Ramadan:

1) Cash-for-work program allows vulnerable youths to cook Ramadan meals to be donated

A US-headquartered NGO is helping vulnerable youths in Lebanon make money aiding other disadvantaged communities this Ramadan.

American non-profit Anera's Lebanese extension is running a multi-faceted cash-for-work program that will pay vulnerable youths to cook hot meals to be distributed to families in need during the Muslim holy month, which started Friday.

Aimed at addressing Lebanon’s socio-economic crisis, which took an additional hit from the coronavirus outbreak and ensuing lockdown, Anera's program is expected to reach 6,000 families through the NGO's partnership with UNICEF and support from local partners.
The program aims to feed 6,000 families during Ramadan [Anera]

"We are tailoring our response to each community’s needs," Samar El Yassir, Anera's country director in Lebanon, told The New Arab.

Yassir said that graduates of Anera’s vocational cooking and hospitality courses offered across Lebanon are now involved in preparing Ramadan meals for elderly families who are unable to cook for themselves.

Serene Dardari, Anera’s communication manager in Lebanon, told The New Arab the program was bringing the country's vulnerable youths together during rough times.

"I see all these photos of young people who are just so happy to be part of something bigger than themselves, to be helping others," Dardari said. 

"It warms my heart to see Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian youth working side-by-side for the common good," she added.

2) Idlib NGO helps Syria's embattled province fight coronavirus

Syria's northwest, the country's last opposition-held territory, houses over a million refugees living in overcrowded camps. An Idlib-based NGO is working to protect vulnerable communities from a potential outbreak that would devastate the war-ravaged region.

Violet Organization, a crowdfunded NGO founded in 2012, assembled a Covid-19 task force last month. Over 200 volunteers were trained to prepare for a potential outbreak with rapid response measures that include emergency evacuations through the organisation's ambulance system.

Volunteers have repeatedly sterilised hospitals, public health centres and areas housing displaced Syrians, such as camps.

Violet has also provided aid to northwest Syria's medical establishments, delivering more than 500 packs of full protective gear to health workers and setting up over 160 triage tents near hospitals and clinics across Idlib and Aleppo provinces.

Read more: Violet Organization: The Idlib NGO helping Syria's embattled province fight Covid-19

3) Muslims create 'mini mosques' to beat Ramadan lockdown blues amid coronavirus

Muslims are campaigning for fellow believers to craft "mini mosques" for their homes this Ramadan, as places of worship shut their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

US-based Imam Ghazali Institute and the UK's City of Knowledge Academy spearheaded the 'Mini Mosque' campaign on Sunday.

Thousands of families across 15 different countries are expected to participate. "We've seen tremendous love and support for the idea," Muhammad Sattaur, Founding Executive Director of the Imam Ghazali Institute, told The New Arab.

"It seems very natural and unifying to come together on the premise of building a fun, engaging family environment."

As of Thursday, 3,915 families around the world have pledged to join the campaign.

Read more: Muslims create 'mini mosques' to beat Ramadan lockdown blues amid coronavirus

4) Syrian Kurds set up hospital to treat coronavirus patients after first death

Syria's Kurds have set up a specialised hospital for coronavirus cases, the Kurdish Red Crescent said Monday, after the first Covid-19 death was reported in the northeastern region.

Early in April, a man in his fifties was confirmed to have died from the virus in a region already suffering from a lack of medical supplies.

According to AFP, Kurdish Red Crescent co-director Sherwan Bery said a new 120-bed facility around 10 kilometres from the city of Hasakeh was now ready to welcome any moderate cases of the virus.

The hospital "is to just focus on the Covid-19 infection cases", keeping them separate from other patients, the report said.

AFP reported the ward contains dozens of beds spaced out some metres apart with oxygen tanks stacked next to them.

While current preparations will enable the ward to house moderate cases, efforts are underway to set up an intensive care unit.

5) Dolphins splash around Istanbul as coronavirus lockdown clears Turkey's waters

Istanbul's dolphins are venturing close to shore as Turkey's coronavirus lockdown caused a sudden and sharp decrease in boat and human traffic across the Bosphorus strait.

Dolphin sightings while crossing the Bosphorus by ferry have been common over the past few years. However, the animals were rarely, if ever, seen so close to Istanbul's shores.

A video on social media showed dolphins swimming by the water's edge near Istanbul's iconic Ortaköy Mosque. The tourist hotspot has quietened considerably amid the coronavirus pandemic, enticing the majestic animals to swim in plain sight.

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