The Duke of Cambridge spoke with three Syrian aid workers about how British donations are being used to help millions of vulnerable people abroad.
They are being supported by the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) Coronavirus Appeal, whose appeal was launched last July aiming to support health workers and improve the living conditions of refugees in countries including Yemen, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan. Over £38 million has so far been raised, with the Foreign Office matching £10 million.
Speaking with humanitarian workers Fadi Hallisso, Kawther Mohamad Ali, and Shahinaz Muamar via video call on Thursday, William said he was ‘amazed’ by the money raised to date, but acknowledged it is ‘nowhere near what you need’.
After listening to their experiences, the heir to the throne said: ‘You are all incredible heroes.
‘I’m totally overwhelmed by the scale of the burden you guys face – the scale and challenge, but also the enormity of the dedication you have.’
He added: ‘As a fundraising initiative goes, that’s a decent amount. I know it’s nowhere near what you need, but £38 million in a coronavirus pandemic year is quite impressive.’
DEC chief executive Saleh Saeed told the duke the countries his organisations supports are facing a ‘potential catastrophe’ this year, with Syria entering its 11th year of fighting, and ‘famine looming in places like Yemen in South Sudan’.
He said without a tracking system to record coronavirus infections and deaths in the regions, official figures do not reflect the true scale of fatalities.
Mr Hallisso, from Aleppo, told William that only 65% of hospitals in Syria are open and that ‘many hundreds of thousands’ of displaced people are ‘living in the outdoors in makeshift tents’.
He explained that ‘a lot of doctors were either killed or had to flee the country for their safety’.
Mr Hallisso said: ‘People are often left with one of two choices – either to die out of hunger if they stay at home, or to risk their life if they go out and try to work and bring food to their families.
‘Because of the lack of viable governing bodies in the north west, and the absence of schemes like the furlough scheme you have in the UK… people are forced to go out and work.
‘Deaths are rising, hospitals also are overwhelmed. This is the grim situation, but we try to do the best we can to raise the awareness about the pandemic, how to deal with it, try to support them as much as possible, and here we are.’
Speaking through a translator, Kawther Ali, an anaesthetist at the Jisr Al-Shughour Hospital in Idlib, added that DEC funding has enabled her to learn how to treat Covid patients while keeping herself safe.
Shahinaz Muamar, who works to protect refugees in and around Idlib in north Syria from Covid-19, admitted she is ‘so afraid about the future’, since many in the camps cannot follow social distancing guidelines and have ‘no safety’.
People can donate to the appeal via the DEC’s website, here.
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