How the Arab world came together to battle the coronavirus pandemic

As days turned into weeks and then months of COVID-19 lockdown, individuals and businesses in the Middle East stepped forward to support, sustain and sometimes simply join hands in kindness. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 July 2020

How the Arab world came together to battle the coronavirus pandemic

  • Some fought back with all they had, setting inspirational examples in the process
  • Individuals stepped forward to support and sometimes simply join hands in kindness

DUBAI: Since January, the world has watched in stunned disbelief as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak spread at breakneck speed, sparing nothing in its way and shutting down one country after another, socially, and economically.

Yet, in true testimony of the resilience of the human spirit, kindness, compassion, and selflessness soon took over. COVID-19 front-liners – medical and non-medical personnel – fought on.

As days turned into weeks and then months of lockdown, individuals and businesses stepped forward to support, sustain and sometimes simply join hands in kindness. Here is a roundup of some of the good from the region.

* Donating wedding meal

When Youssef Abu Zneid realized that his wedding ceremony, scheduled for March 14, would have to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the 23-year-old resident of the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem and his fiancee offered to do a charitable deed instead.

They donated the meat, rice, water, and soft drinks meant for their wedding to the Bethlehem Zakat committee to be distributed to residents quarantined in the city.

* Cooking for the community

Despite being out of work, a Filipino expat based in Dubai has been cooking and distributing free meals to those in her community in Deira. Mother-of-three Feby Cacher Baguisa-Dela Pena, is helping around 200 people a day, starting during the Eid period.

“A minimum of 25 kilograms of rice, 30 kilograms of chicken, and 150 eggs among other ingredients go into preparing the dishes,” she told the UAE’s Gulf News daily. “During Eid I paid for the ingredients from the allowance my husband gave me. But now help has been pouring in from my friends and acquaintances.”

* Donating time

Egyptian doctors Sherif Ahmed Al-Metwally and Mohammed Tawfiq launched an online service called Ahalina Corona Home Care via Facebook to provide free medical consultations to those infected with the virus or isolated at home.

The two medical professionals came up with the idea for their support service after noting the inability of Egyptian hospitals to cope with the increasing number of COVID-19 cases.

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READ MORE: An Egyptian initiative transforms female prisoners’ lives

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* Crochet queen

Reem Bastaki, a Kuwaiti engineer working for the Kuwait National Petroleum Co., combined her love for crocheting with her desire to support COVID-19 front-liners by creating cotton ear savers for those who have to work with face masks on for long hours.

Reem has supplied around 2,000 ear savers for free to medical personnel and volunteers, with more orders coming in.

* Cooking for heroes

When Ramia Abdalghani fled Syria four years ago and arrived in Portugal, the country welcomed her, and together with her husband, she opened a restaurant.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit Portugal, the couple were quick to repay the kindness, supplying free meals since March to front-line workers at hospitals.

*Coming together

The A’Kadna Initiative, a Lebanon-based social campaign started during the COVID-19 pandemic by dozens of activists in the country, runs several programs to help ordinary Lebanese people in desperate situations because of the lockdown.

The campaign has so far helped around 6,000 families, including unemployed, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems who cannot step out.

*Free sanitizers

UAE-based Hena Khan teamed up with a firm called Racheme to supply free hand sanitizers and disinfectants to low-income workers.

The young Pakistani mother has distributed almost 400 products to drivers, gardeners, car washers, and delivery staff, gently tossing them from her villa’s balcony to observe the social distancing rules in place.

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READ MORE: #COVIDkindness trends as people share uplifting stories amid pandemic

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*Sketching and giving

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Saudi fashion community decided to do its bit with a social initiative called @sketch_and_give. It encourages designers to give back to society and provided clothing for those in need during the month of Ramadan.

*Keeping the community healthy

UAE-based agri-tech company VeggieTech and popular restaurant Noodle House teamed up to start Help Our Heroes – an initiative to supply fresh and sanitized produce to communities as well as to front-line workers in hospitals.

* Chocolate goodness

Doing good is not just reserved for those based in the region. Originally from Damascus, Peace by Chocolate is now a Syrian-Canadian chocolatier brand founded by Tareq Hadhad.

The family-run original factory was bombed in their home country, after which they immigrated to Canada. In collaboration with Goodable (a good-news-only video platform), the brand has been distributing free chocolates to Canadians working on the frontlines during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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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.


Lebanon information minister quits in first government resignation over blast

Updated 4 min 9 sec ago

Lebanon information minister quits in first government resignation over blast

  • Lebanon’s information minister Manal Abdel-Samad said she apologizes to the Lebanese public for failing them

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s information minister Manal Abdel-Samad on Sunday quit in the first government resignation since a deadly port blast killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of Beirut.
“After the enormous Beirut catastrophe, I announce my resignation from government,” she said in a statement carried by local media, apologizing to the Lebanese public for failing them.