Prince William has described aid workers helping to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in war-torn countries as “incredible heroes”.
The Duke of Cambridge spoke to three Syrians who are trying to protect people from COVID-19 and said he felt “totally overwhelmed by the scale of the burden” they face.
They are being supported by the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) Coronavirus Appeal, and William heard how donations from Britain are being used.
Launched in July, the appeal is aiming to support people in countries including Yemen, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan.
More than £38m has been raised so far, of which £10m was matched by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office through UK Aid Match.
William said it was a “decent amount”, but “nowhere near” what is needed.
After hearing the stories of Fadi Hallisso, Kawther Mohamad Ali and Shahinaz Muamar, William said: “You are all incredible heroes.”
He added: “I’m totally overwhelmed by the scale of the burden you guys face – the scale and challenge, but also the enormity of the dedication you have.”
Mr Hallisso, from Aleppo, told William that only 65% of hospitals in Syria are open and “a lot of doctors were either killed or had to flee the country for their safety”.
He said: “Deaths are rising, hospitals also are overwhelmed. This is the grim situation, but we try to do the best we can to raise the awareness about the pandemic, how to deal with it, try to support them as much as possible, and here we are.”
Shahinaz Muamar, who works to protect refugees from coronavirus in and around Idlib in northern Syria, said she is “so afraid about the future” because people living in camps are not able to follow social distancing guidelines and have “no safety”.
Speaking through a translator, Kawther Ali, an anaesthetist at the Jisr Al-Shughour Hospital in Idlib, said DEC funding has enabled her to learn how to treat COVID patients while keeping herself safe.
DEC chief executive Saleh Saeed said countries the DEC supports are facing a “potential catastrophe” this year, with Syria entering its 11th year of fighting, and “famine looming in places like Yemen in South Sudan”.
The appeal remains open, and donations can be made via the DEC’s website.