Syria’s White Helmets have been awarded more than $1.2 million in funding to make personal protective equipment (PPE), the Guardian has reported.
The funding comes from Humanitarian Grand Challenge (HGC), a non-profit organisation funded by the UK, US, and Dutch governments.
Funds from the charity have already kickstarted the White Helmets’ PPE production.
The HGC funded facility has produced an estimated 2 million masks, as well as protective gowns and face shields commonly used to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The facility has also been used to dispose of used PPE for north-west Syria’s vulnerable population of more than 3 million people.
The White Helmet’s deputy general manager of humanitarian affairs Munir Mustafa said the pandemic “was the most difficult challenge the White Helmets faced in 2020.”
He added: “We witnessed the spread of the virus in north-western Syria among humanitarian workers and medical personnel, while the global pandemic made cross-border logistics almost impossible.”
Approximately 500 cases of COVID-19 are being reported daily in northwest Syria, but health experts have warned the numbers could be much higher because of inadequate testing facilities and poor living conditions.
The highly contagious virus has been able to spread quickly across areas in the country’s northwest, where millions of internally displaced Syrians are living in overcrowded temporary tent camps.
With the help of HGC, the White Helmets have been able to scale up their response to COVID-19.
“Our volunteers and fellow humanitarians, healthcare providers, and other essential workers are safe now [thanks to HGC funding for the local manufacture of PPE] and can together continue caring for Syrian civilians and responding to the pandemic,” Mustafa added.
The White Helmets, which was formed in 2014, is a civil defence service known for rescuing victims from underneath rubble after air strikes in the war-torn country.
In the seven years since its formation the organisation claims to have saved some 120,000 lives.
However, its role has evolved in recent years as violence has destroyed medical facilities, cutting off vulnerable parts of the population to much needed health care.
The HGC said: “The White Helmets ability to manufacture and distribute personal protective equipment inside Syria will not only protect those working in the overwhelmed health system but reduce the spread of the virus among the most vulnerable.”