There’s no question life, and refugee relief work, is suddenly very different in the Middle East now being under strict quarantine measures.
Like in the West, public gatherings are banned and churches closed. Personal visitations are curtailed as well. A highly social culture is grinding to a halt.
The streets aren’t totally deserted, but traffic is minimal. Most shops are shuttered with the exception of the essential few grocers and pharmacists.
A nightly curfew forces everyone home before dark. Municipality workers spray chemicals to clean the streets and store fronts regularly.
Everyone waits for the daily infection report and death toll, hoping that someday soon they’ll be on the other side of the pandemic curve so life can get back to normal.
We’ve endured about two weeks of a nation-wide lockdown so far. They just announced it will go for another two weeks at least.
While the measures are helping to slow the virus spread, it’s made an already difficult life for the refugees now almost impossible.
Work was scarce before the pandemic due to the economic collapse. Now, what little work was left, is officially forbidden under quarantine.
Serving When It’s Needed Most
Now more than ever the refugees are turning to us for help with the essentials. Food, medicine, heating fuel, milk for children and medical care. Thankfully, the Lord has provided for us to keep helping them with these things that they now have almost no way to pay for themselves.
The different shops we partner with to provide food and medicine remain open and able to help those we send to them. Refugees can still go out of their homes to access these essential stores. The hospitals we work with, while no longer taking non-emergent cases, remain open for emergencies we send to them.
Serving is logistically more challenging now, especially as we take measures to minimize the spread of the virus within our team and the refugee community. But serving isn’t impossible. And it’s definitely worth it.
Some refugee’s homes will literally just have a bag of bread left at times. Maybe some rice and oil. They send us messages of deep thanks for giving them something as basic as a few kilos of staple foods. We send those thanks back on to many of you reading this that help make that happen!
Making Isolation Gowns For Those On The Frontline Of The Pandemic
This country already had medical supply shortages before the pandemic due to their ongoing economic collapse (talked about more in this post).
You can easily imagine with the looming threat of COVID-19 how under prepared most healthcare facilities are. Basic PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for healthcare workers is one of those crucial shortages. They need gloves, gowns, masks, face shields, ventilators and more.
We know we can’t do everything – like make ventilators from scratch – so we decided to focus on what we can do to help. That’s really what God will hold us to account for – did we do what we CAN do? What we can’t do we’ll just have to leave for someone else.
We found that amongst the skillsets represented on our team, we had an ability to immediately begin producing isolation gowns and cloth face masks. These will be donated to facilities in need, while the cloth face masks will also be distributed amongst the community.
We already have one of the hospitals we partner with requesting 100 isolation gowns if we can produce them! They are bracing for a surge in COVID-19 patients. The first few confirmed cases in their area surfaced a few days ago. It’s just a matter of time.
We are already in process of helping this particular facility purchase 50 initial isolation gowns and 10 reusable respirators for their staff from the remaining supply in the market. We hope that holds them over until our own production can increase!
Making Masks To Slow The Spread
While we begin ramping up the PPE sewing project to help healthcare workers, we’ve found there is a demand in the community for washable, durable cloth face masks too.
A cloth face mask may not be appropriate for a front-line healthcare worker. They typically need N95 respirators. They would only use a cloth face mask as a last resort in the most dire of circumstances (which we may yet see happen during this pandemic).
Making an N95 respirator is out of the question. The process requires a multi-million dollar machine that blows nano-sized filament together to make the masks.
What we can produce, however, is a cloth face mask that provides protection in a different way. Neither the cloth face mask or the non-N95 surgical masks were really designed to fully protect the wearer from infection (although there is some benefit, compared to wearing no mask at all).
Surgeons primarily wear surgical masks for one reason – to ensure they don’t cough, sneeze or breathe on a patient during surgery and inadvertently infect them. They wear it to protect others from themself.
These cloth masks won’t fully protect the wearer from COVID-19 infection by someone else, BUT it does help towards protecting everyone else from the person wearing it if they cough/sneeze or otherwise spread the virus unknowingly. Some have argued this is a reasonable public health measure to implement in order to help slow the spread of COIVD-19.
We currently feel this can not only provide some lower level of protection to people in our community, but can also protect the rest of us from those who may be unwitting asymptomatic spreaders.
Masks are also being required here for people who go out to essential stores. If you don’t have a mask, you might not be allowed in. For refugees that can’t afford to buy one from the dwindling market supplies, a washable cloth mask might mean the difference between leaving home or having to stay in and not get needed supplies.
Making a cloth face mask is a lot easier – and faster – than a full isolation gown. Our hope is to provide many masks for the community in the weeks ahead. Pray for the team in this regard!
You Can Do These Things Too!
One of the interesting things about this current pandemic is its global nature. The problems we are facing out here – and some of the solutions for them – are not too different for some of you in the West reading this!
Many of you could help sew isolation gowns for your community’s health workers or cloth face masks for those in your church/neighborhood. It may not seem like much, but every little bit counts.
We plan to post the patterns and further information on COVID-19 relief in a special section on our website later this coming week. If you want the gown/face mask patterns before that time, go ahead and just contact us for them directly, we’d be glad to provide them!