IsraAID ramps up Coronavirus response

Israeli humanitarian aid agency IsraAID is expanding its response to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in China and around the world. In the coming weeks, the non-governmental organization will launch a series of online stress management webinars for medical first responders and mental health workers in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai. The five-part webinar series will launch with an initial group of 30 mental health workers and then will be rolled out to further groups as needed. Additional target groups may include doctors from Zhuhai who have traveled to Wuhan to support the medical response at the outbreak’s city of origin and may require targeted support on their return.

Stress management is crucial to an effective emergency response. The webinars’ content will focus on personal resilience and developing positive coping mechanisms, and they will serve as a forum for each group to consult on psychosocial issues specific to the COVID-19 outbreak. During the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, IsraAID provided stress management workshops to health workers and burial teams responding to the epidemic.

IsraAID is also monitoring the situation in South Korea, which has seen the second highest number of cases worldwide after China, with the number of infected people rising sharply to 6,593 in recent weeks. The organization is currently planning to respond in the city of Daegu, which is by far the hardest-hit in the country. IsraAID has worked in South Korea in the past, providing psychosocial support trainings for organizations working with North Korean defectors and supporting mental health professionals working with families of the victims of the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster.

In addition, IsraAID and its partners have sent two shipments of medical supplies – including face masks, protective suits, and gloves – to Chinese hospitals currently experiencing shortages of vital protective gear.

Dr Debra Kalmanowitz (PhD), IsraAID’s psychosocial support specialist working on the organization’s coronavirus response, said: “The rapid spread of coronavirus in China has led to a sense of uncertainty and fear amongst healthcare workers and wider communities alike. From conversations with leading professionals at the Zhuhai center for public disease control, we understand that healthcare workers exposed to the virus are feeling increased stress, helplessness and fatigue.

IsraAID webinars are structured to support mental health workers by providing a framework for reducing stress as well as sharing specialized information on stress, trauma, coping and resilience at this time.”

Donations to support IsraAID’s disaster relief efforts can be made through the IsraAID Emergency Response Fund.