Syria's White Helmets awarded funds to produce coronavirus prevention equipment

Syria's White Helmets awarded funds to produce coronavirus prevention equipment
The award-winning NGO will produce millions of pieces of personal protective equipment to protect volunteers, healthcare workers and displaced Syrians from Covid-19.
2 min read
15 January, 2021
The White Helmets are credited with saving more than 100,000 lives [Getty]
Syria's Nobel Prize-nominated White Helmets have received more than $1 million in funding to produce lifesaving personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Syria Civil Defence, a volunteer first responder organisation popularly known as the White Helmets, was awarded $1.6 million Canadian dollars (US$1.3 million) for local production of eight million face masks and other forms of PPE.

The funding was awarded by the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, an initiative sponsored by the US, UK, Canada and the Netherlands. 

The masks will be distributed to people in opposition-held northwestern Syria, the Humanitarian Grand Challenge said in a statement this week.

More than three million Syrians are currently residing in the northwestern province of Idlib, the last area of the country held by opposition forces. Around half of them were internally displaced from elsewhere in the war-torn country.

Idlib and surrounding areas have been the site of a devastating bombing campaign by the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad and its ally Russia last year. 

Dozens of hospitals and healthcare facilities were damaged in deliberate airstrikes, leaving the area ill-equipped to handle the coronavirus pandemic.

The millions of Syrians living in the northwest also live in conditions that make it near-impossible to maintain proper hygiene and social distancing.

"To respond to the acute shortage of PPE in Syria, due to increased demand because of Covid-19 and border closures, the White Helmets have pivoted their uniform manufacturing unit to make PPE – medical face masks, protective gowns, and face shields, locally," the Grand Humanitarian Challenge said in a statement.

By manufacturing and safely disposing of PPE directly in the region, four million people in northwest Syria will be better protected against the virus."
Volunteers have already produced more than two million masks and other PPE that matches World Health Organisation standards, said Munir Mustafa, the White Helmets' deputy General Manager for Humanitarian Affairs.

"Our volunteers and fellow humanitarians, healthcare providers, and other essential workers are safer now and can together continue caring for Syrian civilians and responding to the pandemic," he stated.

The White Helmets will later receive a further $2.9 million Canadian dollars (US$2.2 million) to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, the Grand Humanitarian Challenge said.

The volunteer organisation has previously been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and in 2016 received the Right Livelihood Award, popularly known as the "Alternative Nobel".

The NGO has been credited with saving more than 110,000 lives over the course of the nearly decade-long conflict.

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