Syria announces first case of novel coronavirus

A World Health Organization spokesman earlier this month warned that Syria’s “fragile health systems may not have the capacity to detect and respond” to what is now a pandemic. (AFP)
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Updated 23 March 2020

Syria announces first case of novel coronavirus

  • Authorities have over the past week increasingly taken measures to prevent a spread of the deadly virus
  • Transport between provinces is to come to a halt from Tuesday

DAMASCUS: The Syrian government has announced the first case of the novel coronavirus in the war-torn country, days after starting measures to stem the spread of the pandemic.
Health minister Nizar Yaziji late Sunday said authorities had recorded “a first case of the coronavirus in Syria in a person coming from abroad,” without specifying the country.
“The appropriate measures have been taken to deal with” the female patient aged around 20, state news agency SANA reported him as telling journalists.
The Damascus authorities have over the past week increasingly taken measures to prevent a spread of the deadly virus.
They have ordered schools, universities, restaurants, cinemas and events halls to close, and suspended prayer gatherings.
They have also stopped work or downsized staff in government institutions, and transport between provinces is to come to a halt from Tuesday.
Last week, Damascus postponed parliamentary polls scheduled for next month until further notice.
After nine years of a war that has killed more than 380,000 people and ravaged the country’s infrastructure, fears are high that a COVID-19 outbreak in the country would have devastating consequences, especially in areas outside regime control.
These include the last major rebel bastion of Idlib in the northwest, and the Kurdish-held northeast.
A World Health Organization spokesman earlier this month warned that Syria’s “fragile health systems may not have the capacity to detect and respond” to what is now a pandemic.


Palestinian refugees benefit from revival of embroidery technique of tatreez

Updated 28 November 2020

Palestinian refugees benefit from revival of embroidery technique of tatreez

  • Nadine Maalouf and Nesrine El-Tibi set out to re-establish art form while making a humanitarian impact
  • Their social enterprise employs refugee artists and sells their artwork at fairs across the MENA region

DUBAI: When you think of the ancient embroidery technique of tatreez, what usually springs to mind is decorative clothing and elegant patterns on items like cushions. But for 81 Designs — a family-run social enterprise — it is an opportunity for a more comfortable and prosperous future for the female Palestinian refugee community in southern Lebanon.

Nadine Maalouf, alongside her mother Nesrine El-Tibi, is providing a group of refugee artists with a monthly salary by employing them and selling their artwork at fairs across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

“The work is quite detailed and it’s unconventional so it takes a lot of time,” Maalouf said. “Some pieces take four months for one item. We work towards the fair every year because it takes about six months to launch the project from its beginning to its end.”

Maalouf believes more social enterprises like hers could be created to help others. (Supplied)

Starting the company in 2015, then launching two years later at the annual UAE-based fair Art Dubai, Maalouf and El-Tibi set out to re-establish tatreez as an art form while making a positive humanitarian impact.

Three years later and the company employs 20 Palestinian refugee artists creating unique pieces that have preserved and modernized the ancient art of tatreez.

The inspiration for launching 81 Designs came to Maalouf following the birth of her first son. Having studied art direction and art history in her younger years, she worked at various jobs after graduation, but none incorporated the artistic elements she loved.

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Palestinian artists employed by 81 Designs to create pieces that preserve and modernize tatreez.

“I developed this idea because I was doing a lot of research about traditional textiles and artistry,” she said. “I kept on asking myself, ‘Why are we only seeing a one-dimensional form of tatreez?’

“It is an art form, so I wanted to figure out a way to recreate or give a stronger platform to these ladies to be able to sustain what they do as individuals.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a blow to businesses throughout the Middle East and has caused social and economic problems for many. For 81 Designs, however, it provided an opportunity to work on a non-profit collaboration with Abu Dhabi Health Services on the project “I Am Committed” to help tackle the coronavirus.

“We created wristbands for people to receive at every testing site at the UAE and they were sponsored by different companies throughout the community,” said Maalouf. “The wristbands were encouraging people to get tested.”

Maalouf and El-Tibi set out to re-establish tatreez as an art form while making a positive humanitarian impact. (Supplied)

Maalouf believes more social enterprises like hers could be created to help others. “When you create a social enterprise where you use someone’s skill set to provide a job for them, I think that alone in itself inspires others to do the same,” she said.

“You see a lot of different social enterprises sprouting up from the region and that impact in itself is important to create a hub of opportunities for those who are less fortunate, but not treating them as a charity case because these people are amazing.”

However, 81 Designs was not always destined to be a success. Having contacted several NGOs around Lebanon for initial funding, some of them found the idea to be too abstract and something that would not work, while others were not able to visualize the end product. But none of these hurdles held back Maalouf’s eventual success.

“When you set up as a business, you do face challenges and you just need to keep on going. Believe in yourself. Believe that what you’re actually creating can impact others in a positive way.”

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This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.