HRH The Duke of Cambridge speaks to Syrian aid workers on DEC video call

Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Chief Executive Saleh Saeed was delighted to welcome His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge onto a video call with three Syrian aid workers, who are being supported with funds from the DEC’s Coronavirus Appeal, earlier this week.

During the call, The Duke spoke to the aid workers about the challenging situation in northwest Syria, their work to prevent the spread of Covid-19 there and treat infected patients, and how funds from the DEC appeal have been supporting them in this life-saving work.

The DEC launched the Coronavirus Appeal in July 2020 and funds raised have been helping refugees and displaced people in six of the world’s most fragile states, including Syria, as well as the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh. 

Saleh told The Duke how funds donated by the British public have delivered essential aid to help people protect themselves from the virus and survive the economic consequences of the pandemic, which are causing hunger and malnutrition in some countries. He also provided an update on the total raised by the appeal, which now stands at £38 million, including £10 million in Aid Match from the UK Government.

The three aid workers, Fadi Hallisso, Kawther Mohamad Ali and Shahinaz Muamar, discussed the situation in northwest Syria, where 2.7 million people are displaced after 10 years of civil war. Many families have endured harsh winter conditions in crowded makeshift camps in the countryside and find it difficult to follow social distancing or handwashing guidelines in small tents without running water.

Prince William with aid workers on the call

HRH Prince William speaks to the aid workers on the call.

“I work in these camps with Covid-19,” said Shahinaz, whose work is supported by a DEC member charity. “We try to help people in camps to protect themselves from this virus. As we know, they live in a tent, they are so overcrowded. Death surrounds them everywhere. So we try to provide them with hygiene kits, clean kits and building latrines.”

Kawther, an anaesthetist working in one of the few Covid-19 wards in northwest Syria, explained how DEC charity World Vision is supporting the hospital with running costs and training as well as providing PPE and medicine. “The training was very useful and interesting,” she said. “It definitely raised the level of knowledge of the team of doctors.”

Responding to the aid workers’ stories, The Duke said: “You are all incredible heroes. I’m totally overwhelmed by the scale of the burden you guys face, the scale of the challenge, but also the enormity of the dedication you have.”

The Coronavirus Appeal remains open and is funding the work of the DEC’s 14 member charities in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.