MOAS Operational Update: COVID-19 programming
As billions of people around the world are adapting to changes and restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we at MOAS are also adapting our operations and programming to cope with the challenges that the outbreak of the virus has brought.
Like numerous refugee agencies and humanitarian organisations around the world, MOAS has suspended non-essential programming and has begun to redirect resources and capacity to COVID-19 responses. Over the last month MOAS has launched several COVID-19 humanitarian responses, and in this blog we will outline our current COVID-19 programming.
At the end of March, MOAS launched a new COVID-19 humanitarian project in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. As a result of the new challenges that have emerged in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the suspension of our ongoing flood and water safety training in Bangladesh, MOAS has decided to redirect resources to contribute to the COVID-19 emergency response in the region.
One of the key preventative measures to combat the spread of the disease is social distancing, yet for the majority of people living in Cox’s Bazar and the refugee camps, such a measure is incredibly hard to achieve, due the high density of people living there. As a result of this factor, MOAS has established an initiative to make face masks that will be distributed across the region as a preventative measure to combat the spread of the virus.
With support from IOM, we decided to repurpose our pre-existing workshop in the fishing village of Shamlapur; transforming it from a site intended for the manufacture of water safety equipment, into a production hub for the manufacture of reusable, washable cotton face masks.
A further benefit of the initiative is that it also serves as a livelihoods project for local host community workers including local tailors, many of whom have lost income due to the shutdown. In addition, we are purchasing all our materials for the production hub from local businesses to further support the host community during these uncertain times.
The effort and hard work put in by our fantastic team has been incredible, and as a result of their dedication, we are extremely happy to report that in the past 6 weels a total of 50,000 face masks have been manufactured and distributed to non-medical essential staff in the region. In addition to this, in order to amplify the benefits of the project, we are expanding the initiative to 2 workshops and involving many more community members, in the hope that we can make over 200,000 masks across the next 3 months.
Whilst we are adapting our programming in our key operational field locations such as Bangladesh, our HQ home country of Malta also needs vital aid in the fight against the virus. Malta is host to many asylum seekers and refugees, of which the majority reside in closed detention centres or in semi-accessible ‘open centres’ on the island. MOAS has worked with the Maltese government to help support the needs of these centres for many years, and now in a measure akin to the project in Bangladesh, we have established a mask production initiative.
This operation has been initiated as a result of fears that a rapid spread of the virus could occur within the centres, due to the overcrowded living conditions within them. In addition to providing preventative measures to the community, this project has also acted as a community solidarity initiative, with hundreds of volunteer seamstresses offering their skills and time. As result of the tireless efforts of our local workers, nearly 7000 masks have been made by the 140 voluntary members of our fantastic team.
In addition to the need for preventative measures to combat the spread of the virus, access to education during this unprecedented time is also a major concern of ours. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Malta’s open centres, which house approximately 4,000 asylum seekers and refugees, have been closed and are currently on lockdown. Consequently, the children that live in these centres with their families, are now unable to leave them and access public educational resources.
Whilst classes are now resuming at many schools through the use of online remote learning platforms, children living within 3 open centres across Malta, are now in lockdown, and are without access to laptops, electronic devices or an adequate internet connection.
Therefore, they are at risk of being deprived of an education, and without a resolution to this issue, these children, who are already marginalized and often behind their age groups at school, will potentially have to repeat a year if they are unable to access the same education to those undertaking remote learning from home.
In response to this, MOAS has proposed the Malta Remote Learning Project, which aims to give these children access to education through the purchase of technology for educational use. Through this initiative, MOAS aims to procure laptops/tablets, relevant software and mobile internet devices for families with school age children living in these open centres. In addition to the provision of the devices themselves, we will also provide tech support to those who require help to understand how to use the devices, as well as the remote learning programmes.
We are currently fundraising for this project, and through donations we can ensure that these families have access to basic education for their children, so they are not left behind and marginalized further. With the resources provided, we are hoping that we can help facilitate the education of these children in years to come, even beyond the COVID-19 crisis.
Yemen and beyond
We are also continuing to send vital pharmaceutical and famine relief supplies to vulnerable communities in countries that have been devastated by conflict, violence and instability in recent years.
For over a year now, MOAS has been undertaking the delivery and distribution of famine relief and pharmaceutical aid to our local partners in Aden, in the South of Yemen, through international collaborations with donor partners such as Edesia and MEDEOR. Since January 2019, MOAS has acquired and delivered nearly 50 tonnes of Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) for children at-risk or suffering from malnutrition, as well as 120,000 Euros worth of pharmaceutical supplies.
We are delighted to say that at the end of April, as preparations for COVID-19 responses were ramping up in the region, we confirmed the delivery of an additional 26 ton shipment of Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) to our partners ADRA in Yemen, as well as a further second shipment of pharmaceutical supplies.
In addition to these deliveries, in a first for MOAS, we have sent our first ever shipment to Somalia, in partnership with Edesia. This shipment is due to arrive in the beginning of July to provide relief to the communities supported by in-country partner IMC Somalia.
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