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Learning how to stay safe from coronavirus: Abu Muhammad's story

Syria is in the tenth year of a civil war that has ravaged the country and displaced millions of people, many of whom now live in the temporary shelter of refugee camps. The disruption of the global pandemic has only added to the pressure on the already struggling infrastructure and health system. But our community health workers have helped older people like 80-year-old Abu Muhammad to stay safe from coronavirus and get the support they need.

Abu Muhammad is visited by a community health worker

At the start of the pandemic, we began working with an in-country partner, SEMA, to strengthen their health facilities and mobile health units and help them prepare for the virus. We also trained and established teams of health workers to go out into internally displaced people’s camps, raise awareness of coronavirus and infection control within the community and provide ongoing support to older people during the pandemic.

During one of the visits to the Atma camps in Idlib, they came across the case of Abu Muhammad and his wife Umm Muhammad, 65. Umm Muhammed is sick, suffers from severe back pain and is unable to walk. The couple live alone and there is no one to help them or take care of them.

Umm Muhammad with community health workers

Our team introduced their work to Mr and Mrs Muhammad by providing some health information, explaining the role of SEMA, and advising them about the organisation’s health centres close to their place of residence.

Abu Muhammad explained that he cannot work because of his old age and thus is unable to secure medicine for his sick wife, but he takes care of her, prepares food, and provides her with as much as he can. Abu Muhammad had heard about coronavirus and feared its spread. He knew how important it was to protect himself and his wife from the virus.

The community health workers gave him advice about coronavirus and ways to prevent the spread. They emphasized how important it was to practice proper handwashing, use disinfectants, reduce contact with others and avoid crowded places. The team explained the symptoms of coronavirus in detail and provided Mr Muhammad with a special telephone number to call for advice if either of them displayed any of the symptoms.

The community health workers also informed Mr Muhammad that he could go to the nearby mobile medical clinic and request a medical examination alongside the medicine that he and his wife needed. And in a follow-up visit, the couple were given a special hygiene kit containing essentials to help prevent the virus.

Since learning from the community health workers, Abu Muhammad has been trying to follow the prevention guidance closely and share the advice with those around him, with the aim of protecting himself, his wife and them from the virus.

By reaching out to those most at-risk during the pandemic, our community health workers are helping older people and their communities to stay well.

Learn more about our COVID-19 response in Syria on our Country in Focus page

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Older people in the poorest parts of the world affected by conflict or living in refugee camps need help urgently to survive the silent threat of COVID-19.

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Last updated: Mar 04 2021

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