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May 8, 2020

Tackling COVID-19 among Displaced Syrians

Providing COVID-19 info in Lebanon. Concern, 2020.
Providing COVID-19 info in Lebanon. Concern, 2020.

Uncertainty and instability are two things that many communities in the Middle East are well used to, having endured years of war and conflict.

Prolonged fighting in countries like Syria, and resulting the influx of refugees in Lebanon and Turkey, have limited capacity at every level – with health infrastructure particularly strained. COVID-19 has now presented yet another challenge and is putting increasing pressure on already struggling populations.

In Lebanon, there have been 721 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 24 deaths as of April 30 – with the first diagnosis within a refugee camp raising significant concern over the potential for the infection to spread. In Turkey, as of April 30, there are 118,000 confirmed cases with over 3,000 deaths.

With limited testing facilities, there are growing concerns that the actual figure of confirmed COVID-19 cases is much higher.

Concern is responding quickly. In Syria, our teams have worked with local vendors to allow beneficiaries to purchase both food and hygiene products with vouchers provided by Concern. We are also distributing over 20,000 hygiene kits and food baskets to vulnerable people in camps, informal settlements, collective centers, and urban areas.

In Lebanon, the first COVID-19 case was recorded in a refugee camp in late April. With little access to lifesaving health care and not physically being able to practice safe social distancing, refugees are particularly at risk. Concern’s teams are working to contain the virus amongst Lebanon’s most vulnerable communities by distributing hygiene kits to refugees and essential leaflets on how to keep safe from COVID-19, reaching 4,000 individuals so far. We have also just finished the rehabilitation of a 50-room disused school as an isolation facility for suspected COVID-19 cases.

Further, we are strengthening remote case management work, which supports survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, child protection, and intimate partner violence – all of which are on the rise due to the extended lockdown. To better assist those that need our help, our teams have set-up a 24/7 hotline for psychological support.

According to Concern’s Case Management Officer in Lebanon, Siba Bizri, “the hotline is open 24/7 for regular calls. However, in times of emergency, Concern also activates WhatsApp phone calls, messages, and video calls.”

In Turkey, our team is providing urgent protection and case management support to vulnerable Syrian refugees. This includes the provision of urgent shelter support, cash support for food (in the form of shopping cards), basic household items (mattress, kitchen items, etc.), and emergency transportation.

Concern’s staff is also adapting and piloting online training sessions to caregivers of children on measures to take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Preparations for distributing 3,575 hygiene kits with soap, shampoo, and anti-bacterial surface cleaners to vulnerable families are also underway.

This is just the beginning of our response, and there is still much more work that needs to be done. We know that now more than ever, quick responsive and preventative measures are essential if we are to beat the spread of COVID-19, and that is exactly what we plan on doing.

Thank you for your continued support.

Mar 10, 2020

Arshia's Story

"Arshia and Baby Aklima." Darren Vaughan (Concern)
"Arshia and Baby Aklima." Darren Vaughan (Concern)

For this report, I’d like to share another story from one of people at the heart of Concern’s Rohingya refugee response in Bangladesh. Reported by Concern’s Tony Cuddihy, the following story captures the incredible impact your support is having on these vulnerable families:

In Bangladesh, Concern is working closely with the Rohingya people within the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. Mum-of-two Arshia is one of more than one million who have crossed the border from neighbouring Myanmar since August 2017, and knows first-hand the impact our team of nutrition experts can have when it comes to improving quality of life.

Seven months pregnant when she was forced to leave her village and journey by foot for almost two days, Arshia spent an entire month on the banks of a river without regular access to food before swimming over to Bangladesh.

“I was pregnant at the time. I had a plastic water container to keep me afloat,” she says.

When our outreach team visited the family’s two-room shelter in Cox’s Bazar, Arshia’s daughter Aklima – by now seven-months-old – was severely malnourished.

“The family were very worried about Aklima,” says 30-year-old Arshia. “She was very ill and was taken to hospital. She had a severe fever and wasn’t able to eat at the time. I was concerned for her health.”

Arshia and her family now receive rations of 30 kilos of rice, 15 kilos of lentils and 3 litres of oil and little Aklima’s health is improving. Having only weighed seven and a half pounds, she is now gaining weight and is well on the road to recovery.

As part of our emergency response to the Rohingya crisis, we are delivering life-saving nutrition services to young children under the age of five.

Concern volunteers - comprised largely of people from the Rohingya community - conduct house-to-house visits over difficult geographical terrain in eight camps in Cox's Bazar to screen children for malnourishment. The cure rate for treatment of children under the age of five with severe malnutrition at Concern's Outpatient Therapeutic Programmes (OTPs) is 97% on average.

We sincerely appreciate your generous support, which is what makes all this possible. Thank you.

Feb 18, 2020

Locust Swarms Creating Food Crisis

Locusts in Marsabit, Kenya. Photo: Concern (2020).
Locusts in Marsabit, Kenya. Photo: Concern (2020).

Concern Worldwide has launched an emergency appeal for funds to prevent a major humanitarian crisis in East Africa as massive swarms of desert locusts threaten food supplies of 13 million people.

“Swarms of locusts are sweeping through the region eating everything in sight – leaves, crops and grass,” Concern’s Director of International Programs Anne O’Mahony said. “A swarm can strip a field in minutes.”

“For pastoralist farmers it means they have no fodder for their livestock. Farmers who were preparing to harvest crops have watched as locusts devoured both their plants and the seeds they need for next year’s crop. It is a disaster.”

“It is just so unfair for these vulnerable communities who have come through years of drought and were then hit by flooding to see them lose everything in this way.”

Massive swarms of locusts are devouring entire fields of crops in as little as 30 seconds and fueling fears of a major food crisis in some of the world’s poorest countries. Communities in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are facing alarming food shortages with the crops they grow to survive being eaten in seconds by flying desert locusts.

“It only takes 30 seconds for a swarm to eat an entire field,” said Concern Kenya Country Director Amina Abdulla. “Millions of locusts are eating all vegetation in their path including food crops that are absolutely crucial for survival here.”

Amina said the devastating swarms – which have made headlines around the world as affected countries declare national emergencies – recently split into two directions in Kenya, heading west and south.

“This is extremely worrying and has major implications for Kenya in terms of food security,” she said.

Concern staff in Kenya are assessing the damage and planning to support families through cash aid and seed distribution to try and avert a food crisis.

Similar locust swarms in Ethiopia are the worst the country has seen in 25 years, with an estimated 235,000 hectares of crop, pasture and forest invaded by the infestation so far.

Meanwhile in Somalia, rural communities already struggling to cope following unusually heavy rains and flash floods in the second half of 2019 are especially vulnerable now to the effect of the massive locust swarms. In several locations, precious crops have been destroyed and Concern’s team in Somalia are conducting an assessment of the damage and the needs of the people affected.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has estimated that the locust swarms will grow up to 500 times their current size by June if sufficient measures to tackle them are not taken soon. We need your continued support now to prevent this emerging disaster from becoming a catastrophe in the coming months. Thank you.

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