Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) MENA – COVID-19 updates

 

 

19 March 2020

Dear Friends:

Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) MENA continues to accompany, serve and advocate for the people of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, while responding to many uncertainties of the global COVID19 pandemic.

Amid this uncertainty, we felt it was important to share an update of our activities with those who support this work. We will need your help as we respond to the local implications of this pandemic.

We will continue the work of monitoring and reporting on our work. However, in these unprecedented times, we know that flexibility will be required as we report on the numbers and timeline of these programmes.

Below we share information on five different areas:

Thank you for your flexibility and continued support of those we accompany.

Regional office

JRS MENA staff taking necessary precautions against COVID-19 in Jeramana, Syria (Photo: JRS MENA)

  • Financial transfers to JRS MENA projects will be delayed because the banks in Lebanon will be closed until 29 March. JRS Regional office will not be able to transfer /withdraw any money. If the banks remain closed further past 29 March, then April activities will be affected.
  • All staff working remotely as much as possible.
  • All group meetings and trainings have been cancelled, postponed, or arranged as meetings at a distance.
  • All field visits have been cancelled or postponed.
  • All donor visits, or travel to donors outside Lebanon have been cancelled or postponed.

Iraq

Country

  • 164 confirmed cases with 12 deaths.
  • Travel ban between governorates March 14-28.
  • NGOs were exempted from the travel ban. The lockdown is rigorously applied and NGO staff can only travel in NGO vehicles, with letters from the Country Director and for specific reasons.
  • The impasse on letters of access remains, without which NGOs cannot travel between KRI/GoI.
  • Baghdad and Erbil airports are closed to commercial flights from 17-24 March.
  • As of 19 March at 00:00hours, the lockdown in the KRI applies across all governorates.
  • JRS is not affected by this but numerous other NGO staff have been caught outside of Iraq and are unable to return because of a travel ban to/ from certain nations.
  • Central Bank of Kurdistan has been closed since 09 March which limits access to funds.
  • JRS work has been made more difficult by serious flooding that is occuring in Northern Iraq (Duhok, Sharya, Qaraqosh) on 18 March.

Country office

  • Staff working remotely.

Projects

  • In Sharya, education programmes have been suspended 26 Feb – 24 March as per the KRG Min. Of Education.
  • 01 March JRS suspended family visits to avoid spread of COVID-19.
  • Teacher training (13-14 March) coordinated with Universite St. Joseph (Lebanon) postponed as professor would have been unable to return to Lebanon.
  • Following instructions issued by the Mental Health Sub-Cluster and directives by the Ministry of Health, the twice weekly collaboration with Step-In to provide the healthcare service at the JRS Community Centre in Sharya has been suspended.
  • MHPSS programmes have been postponed or suspended. March 15, JRS in Sharya provided psychiatry medicine to 57 (9M+48F) individuals cases in the Sharya Community Center. Precautions were taken for social distancing.
  • After suspending programmes, precautions were taken for individuals with urgent cases (suicide risk).
  • Those individuals that needed to have their psychiatric medicines have received them. They will not face any problem during the suspension of normal activities. We have medical supplies to last until the second week of April.
  • In Qaraqosh, IRQ 04—as in all Ninewa governorate—there is a periodic lockdown. Thus, the doctor cannot see the MHPSS patients. Appointments rescheduled.
  • In Qaraqosh, as per the GoI Ministry of Education, JRS suspended the KG and all educational activities.
  • In JRS projects, project directors, coordinators, and drivers, cleaners, and guards have been careful to disinfect centres, as well as of vehicles—since these are used by several people every day.

Jordan

Country

  • Confirmed cases: 48. Zero deaths
  • As of 17 March all flights are suspended, and land and sea borders are closed.
  • Beginning 18 March, Defense Law has been declared meaning a lockdown of all non essential activity until 01 April.
  • Banks will be closed except for two days only for salary payments, debt reliefs, monetary policy to support the economy.

Country office

  • All reporting, monitoring, and recruitment process (on-line only), will continue.
  • All staff will work remotely 18 March – 01 April.
  • Social media awareness campaign on COVID –19 since 01 March.

Projects

  • JRS will close the educational and psychosocial centers of J02 and J03 from 15 March -01 April, unless this is extended by GoJ. This includes the suspension of home visits.
  • JRS will not interrupt or stop the courses as much as it is possible. Alternative plans are: online and remote learning; course videos will be produced and shared on-line. Our teachers and facilitators are in touch with the students and beneficiaries to continue their courses and not lose time interrupting the program as much as possible.
  • ASU will continue on their platform, only 13% chose not to continue. Some individual sessions and group sessions continued via Skype as much as the beneficiaries had internet access. J02 teachers are working to prepare videos to share with the students.
  • JRS Jordan is investigating educational platforms prepared by UNESCO and UNICEF to share with our children and parents.
  • The Home Visits teams have established a phone line that is open every day from 9 am – 5 pm to receive calls for any emergency cases for referral or medical assistance.
  • JRS suspended Bard College blended course because of the deteriorating situation in Germany and West Bank and postponed the Llajnafsi workshop that was supposed to take place in March.

Lebanon

Country

  • Confirmed cases: 133. 10 full recoveries. 4 deaths
  • MEHE has extended school closures until 29 March 2020 and may extend further.
  • GoL has announced a “Lockdown” limiting non- essential travel for everyone until 29 March.
  • Travel ban from 18 – 29 March restricting all non-emergency arrivals by air, land or sea.

Country office

  • JRS teams have met in each project to establish a plan for the foreseeable future.
  • JRS Country Office will work remotely until March 29 as a result of the national lockdown.
  • Social media and poster campaigns have been present in JRS Lebanon projects since 10 March.
  • JRS will continue posting on JRS Lebanon Facebook page videos and posters which are produced by MOH and WHO as kind of awareness for the people who follow our page.
  • JRS will continue to follow MEHE and MOH instructions related to COVID-19.

Projects

  • Awareness sessions were held for JRS staff across all projects (09-13 March) on prevention and symptoms.
  • Projects distributed to all families of children in education programmes a flyer about COVID-19 symptoms and prevention.
  • 09-13 March, JRS began considering remote models for education programmes. As a first step, we distributed worksheets in all education projects in a manner that maintained safe distancing and proper hygiene. As lockdown restrictions become stricter this will no longer be possible.
  • JRS will begin a pilot project by creating a WhatsApp group to prepare for distance learning for children. Lessons will be short, approx. 1 minute, followed by an exercise. This will be assessed for efficacy, taking into consideration the limited access to streaming internet of most families.
  • Home visits are suspended for now. The Home visit teams are working on reports, accessing training, and following up with families via phone. HV teams have spoken with the Clinical psychologist about how to reply to certain questions.
  • Some JRS social workers are attending the COVID-19 training which UNICEF is providing (Trainings of Trainers sessions) to NON-Health LCRP partners, in close collaboration with the Disaster Risk Management unit at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Lebanese Red Cross, University of Balamand and with the coordination support of the Inter-Agency.
  • Social workers at the social centers maintain contact with beneficiaries by creating WhatsApp group for each group counseling and managed to conduct sessions. They maintain individual counseling even though it is limited to individuals who have WhatsApp and Wi-Fi or 3G.
  • All social workers in the social center sent a WhatsApp message (in text and by voice message) to the households about COVID-19 symptoms, and prevention.
  • The Clinical Psychologist has had a hard time maintaining contact with clients by phone. However, we were able to deliver medication (taking necessary precautions) to those who receive it on a monthly basis.
  • JRS is assuring that hygiene related supplies will be available in our projects (soap, bleach, paper towels, sanitizers…) following the instructions provided by MOH, MEHE and other entities.

Syria

Country

  • There is no official information about cases of COVID –19 in Syria.
  • Recently, there has been more concern about COVID-19 among beneficiaries. JRS staff note that streets are more empty than normal.
  • 15 March, Government of Syria closed all schools, and universities until 05 April. It also ordered the suspension of all activities and gathering held by organizations, churches, mosques, etc.

Country office

  • JRS Syria staff is preparing to work remotely.

Projects

  • As of 09 March, in all projects, JRS implemented strong measures of prevention (I.e. hand washing, and social distancing), following worldwide recommendations.
  • Following the directive of the Syrian Government on 15 March and after consulting the Project Directors, all activities were suspended in Jeramana, AlKafroun and AlSakhour.
  • Project have been reduced to the minimum necessary. From 20 March – 01 April all staff will be working remotely.
  • JRS decided with the team of the Health Project in Aleppo to keep the health services in the clinics running under the following conditions: to increase the prevention measures, and evaluate the situation on a daily basis.