Youth help fight COVID-19 in Aleppo

Supported by UNICEF, a youth-led initiative produces masks for vulnerable families

UNICEF
instructor teaching youths in a  sewing workshop
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Antwan Chnkdji
30 August 2020

Aleppo, Syria, 24 August 2020- With the recent global spread of COVID-19, the demand for surgical masks has increased, driving up their prices and making them unaffordable for already vulnerable families. Years of violence, displacement and depletion of financial resources have taken a toll on children and their families across Syria, only for their needs to be compounded due to the pandemic and a worsening economic situation.

To help vulnerable children and their families protect themselves against COVID-19 and as part of a UNICEF-supported programe for youth, around 200 young people aged 15-18 launched “Make it, wear it!”; a youth-led initiative to produce reusable fabric masks, thanks to a generous contribution from Germany.

The youth gathered in UNICEF-supported adolescent friendly spaces dedicated for courses on vocational trainings, life skills, languages as well as community initiatives, to take a short course on sewing. As a result of the course, the young men and women learned the basics of sewing including using a sewing machine, tailoring cloths and the production of safe masks according to criteria established by the World Health Organization (WHO). This has enabled young people to not only produce masks for themselves and their families, but to also make masks to distribute to vulnerable children and families in the governorate, along with awareness-raising messages.

“This initiative does not only help families protect against COVID-19 but also allows youth to play a leading role in addressing the challenges of their communities in a meaningful way,” says Diana Fattal, UNICEF Adolescent Development and Participation (ADAP) officer in Aleppo.

instructor teaching youths in a sewing workshop
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Antwan Chnkdji
A sewing instructor at a UNICEF- supported center for youth and adolescents in Bustan Alzahra neighbourhood in Aleppo city, explains the sewing process to a group of young people.
instructor teaching youths in a sewing workshop
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Antwan Chnkdji
“The situation is becoming serious, and I fear for my family and my community; everyone should wear a mask, and this is my way of helping them protect themselves against COVID-19,” says Rouaa (right), 15, from Alshaar neighborhood in Aleppo city.

“The situation is becoming serious, and I fear for my family and my community; everyone should wear a mask, and this is my way of helping them protect themselves against COVID-19,”

Rouaa (right), 15
youth sewing
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Antwan Chnkdji
Instead of taking a break after sitting for his national Grade 9 exams, Abdulkader, 15, immediately joined the sewing course to learn how to make fabric masks. “I want to protect my family and my community from COVID-19,”” he says. “It’s my first time ever using a sewing machine, but I want to help with whatever I can,” he adds.
youth holding a mask
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Antwan Chnkdji
Rouaa, 15, is proud of the first mask she produced with her peers at the end of the first day of the sewing course she took at a UNICEF-supported center for youth in Aleppo city.
youth sewing
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Antwan Chnkdji
Saif Al- Din, 16, learned how to use a sewing machine from his mother who works as a seamstress at home. “I wanted to learn how to make a mask so I can make them at home for my friends and family,” he says. “A reusable fabric mask is the most cost-efficient way to protect against COVID-19,” he adds.