UNICEF shares COVID-19 life-saving messages through Arabic sign language

Rahma for Special Needs produces a series of COVID-19 informative videos for children with severe or profound hearing loss

Simon Balsom
The sign language speaker
Rahma For Special Needs
15 May 2020

Through an innovative programme in cooperation with local partner Rahma for Special Needs (RSN) and jointly funded by the Government of Canada and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM), UNICEF Lebanon’s child-friendly messages for COVID-19 safety are being shared for the first time through the use of Arabic sign language.

As part of RSN’s UNICEF-supported Specialized Services Programme for Syrian Refugee Children with Disabilities in Lebanon, a series of key child-focused coronavirus COVID-19 information videos have been enhanced and made accessible to children with severe or profound hearing loss.

For RSN’s Dima Ghannoum, the addition of signing has transformed the way critical information is shared with the centre’s children at this time.

“These children are amongst Lebanon’s most vulnerable and, with little or no hearing, until now they have been excluded from receiving many of the important coronavirus safety messages shared by trusted sources such as UNICEF. Access to knowledge surrounding ways to prevent the spread of the virus is essential to their safety and the safety of their families,” Dima says.

As part of the centre’s UNICEF-supported programme, children with hearing disabilities learn a modern form of Arabic sign language from the age of 4, and the centre extends their classes to include parents of the supported children.

The COVID-19 information videos have been signed by two of the centre’s teachers – both with hearing disabilities themselves. For deaf children, as with all children, language is key to learning. In their case, the Arabic sign language.

Reviewing the videos after recording
Rahma For Special Needs
During the recording of the sign language video
Rahma For Special Needs

Across Lebanon, and through numerous other initiatives, UNICEF is committed to supporting children with disabilities, boosting inclusivity and ensuring their access to learning and education.

Luca Solimeo, UNICEF Lebanon’s Chief of Communication for Development, said “Children with disabilities are first and foremost children, but children who may experience additional barriers in humanitarian contexts. Including and engaging children with disabilities in emergency responses is crucial to reduce risk and build resilience in such children and their families, thus ensuring a more equitable and inclusive humanitarian action”.

While the signed videos have been received with excitement from the centre’s children and praise from local parents, through UNICEF Lebanon’s Facebook page they’re also positioned to provide benefit to a wider audience including children and adults seeking reliable information during the coronavirus pandemic and who are proficient in Arabic sign language.

Rahma For Special Needs