Young Innovators Give Syria’s Fight Against COVID-19 a Much-needed Jump Start
More than nine years of conflict in Syria has had a disastrous effect on the country’s economy and devastated its healthcare system. A pandemic of the scale of COVID-19 threatens to intensify pre-existing fragilities in an already-vulnerable economy that has experienced market collapse, rampant inflation and currency depreciation, in addition to the impact of sanctions imposed on the country.
Young Syrians were fast to join the fight in support of the county’s response to the pandemic. A few of them are putting to work their entrepreneurial skills newly acquired through a UNDP initiative called JumpStart that supports the development of innovative graduation projects in applied engineering and helps transform them into start-up businesses.
In Aleppo, three fresh mechanical engineering graduates Ahmad (26), Mohamed (24), and Ali (26) saw an opportunity in the rapidly emerging need for products that can support the country’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. They teamed up to design and produce disinfection and protective solutions.
“Healthcare workers are doing an amazing job on our behalf. We wanted to support and complement their efforts, to the best of our ability and knowledge” said Ali “As Syrians, we have learned to adapt to difficult circumstances we are living under. For our products, we knew we could only depend on equipment and materials available from the local market” added Mohamed
Utilizing electrostatic technology, they were able to put together a portable aerosol applicator, which provides optimal application of disinfectants with consistent coverage. Their device serves well for sterilizing hospitals, surgery rooms and medical facilities.
They also built a portable and foldable disinfection tunnel with motion activated sprayers that can be used for individuals at the entrance of the public spaces. Additionally, they produce automatic disinfectant dispensers that use motion activated compressors and can be placed on any container, as well as 3D-printed face shields.
UNDP’s JumpStart Initiative was launched in 2019 and has supported 40 youth-led innovative start-ups across the country with training, production tools and equipment. More than 50% of the start-ups specialized in mechanical and medical engineering.
In Damascus, Razan, 23, a biomedical engineer graduate has directed her energy to producing 3D-printed multiple-use masks with replaceable filters.
“Before the crisis, we were producing smart upper limbs prosthetics” says Razan. “We quickly adapted and stepped-up our production arrangements to face the new threat”
Similarly, in Homs, another group of young engineers, electronics and communication engineers, Amr (26), and Nour (25) and control systems engineer, Abdul Kadir (26), joined forces with 12 other volunteers to produce 3D-printed face shields through six home-based start-ups. They put the seven 3D printers available to them to work around the clock at their homes, maximizing production during the lockdown. To date, they have already donated 600 face shields to multiple health facilities across Homs.
“In the face of this new extra threat, we felt the need to use our expertise and the few resources available to us to step up support to our community” said Amr. “Especially we wanted to help protect health workers who are putting themselves in harm’s way to protect us”
Putting to good use generous funds by the Government of Japan, UNDP is able to bring together young innovators and entrepreneurs across Syria to co-create digital solutions to help address the COVID-19 crisis. We plan to support the sustainability of 12 youth-led start-ups engaged in similar efforts, in the hope of scaling up preparedness and readiness to face the outbreak across Syria.
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Written by Asma’ Nashawati, Communications Associate, UNDP Syria