Muslim Aid’s country directors are under more pressure than ever during this time of worldwide crisis.
"Social disaster is coming, panic is everywhere,” says our Bangladesh country director Rabeya Sultana, who is also her country’s chair of START, a global network of leading aid agencies.
"Not all people can afford hand sanitiser so we are hoping to provide this, and soap and hand washing points. People are using raincoats, umbrellas, we need to help them with accurate information. There is a strong need for psychosocial care, a therapeutic approach.”
Muslim Aid has three community hospitals and a focus on child and maternal healthcare in Bangladesh.
Muslim Aid Pakistan has a prior focus on water and sanitation. Balochistan is an arid region prone to droughts and earthquakes, and many people already live a long way from clean water, and Punjab has a river which is often polluted due to flooding and public defecation due to lack of latrines.
“The prospects are dire,” says Programmes Head Jannat Durrani. “We believe we need to give tangible items as our first priority. We will then move to behavioural issues like social distancing although of course we are issuing warnings via social media.”
Muslim Aid Pakistan has already donated two ambulances to government authorities. Plans include:
Medical experts have warned that the Somalia outbreak could be the worst in the world. Muslim Aid Somalia is working around the clock to educate citizens to put protective measures in place urgently.
A country representative, who cannot be named for security reasons, says that people are “in shock and on the alert.”
“We have been having exactly the same problems the UK had in the earlier days, people gathering together in public places, disregarding the announcements, we must try to educate them that this is serious,” he says.
Muslim Aid Somalia will use social media and possibly leaflets to build awareness and is discussing longer term support.
“We have to ensure that we push for social distancing and hygiene, and it has to happen early as we know systems will struggle to manage it in these countries,” says Muslim Aid Global Programmes Development Lead Iqbal Rafiq.
Gaza is bracing for the outbreak. Muslim Aid is still working through partners, despite the fragile and deteriorating situation, finding ways to continue educating orphans, feeding children and educating their mothers about nutrition, supporting farmers and installing and maintaining solar powered water desalination units, which means around 80,000 people have access to clean water.
“Our first intervention is likely to be raising community awareness of personal hygiene practices and social distancing,” says country representative Ola M Dadah.
“We plan to support with better access to basic supplies and medical services, we will provide cash assistance, food packs and hygiene kits. Then we will support health providers by training doctors, nurses and cleaners, and provide disinfectant and detergents, sterilization pumps, electronic thermometers and Personal Protective Equipment such as disposable sheets, gowns, masks, protection glasses and gloves.” she adds.
“Many of the people we support have very little access to health facilities, even without the coronavirus,” says Muslim Aid Myanmar country director Keith Doyle. “We are very concerned about what will happen.”
Muslim Aid is focusing on around 11 villages, working closely with local partner organisations.
“Our initial focus is hygiene and sanitary kits, and looking at how we can boost healthcare facilities,” adds Keith Doyle.
Our Emergency Appeal is fundraising for vulnerable people in Somalia, Sudan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Bosnia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Yemen. Healthcare systems in these countries are some of the most poorly ranked by the World Health Organisation. Out of 191 health care systems ranked, WHO rates Myanmar at 190 and Somalia at 167.
The global programme will focus on improved hygiene and social distancing practices and improved access to basic supplies and appropriate medical services. Muslim Aid is targeting the most vulnerable people, such as refugees, the internally displaced, the elderly, the disabled and low-income families.
Local in-country teams will identify the most vulnerable members of each community and give them hygiene kits including soap, hand sanitizer and thermometers. Message dissemination about social distancing will take place via social media, print materials and electronic media if possible.
Teams will also provide masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant to health facilities which have the highest needs and build on existing relationships with local health organisations to create referral systems to centres which are equipped. Muslim Aid will also provide cash transfers for those struggling to meet basic needs.