With training from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and support from the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, Syrian refugee Midia Said Sido makes soap to help avert the spread of COVID-19.
In her kitchen in southern Lebanon, Midia Said Sido adds soap ingredients into a silver bowl and whisks everything together. She watches a UNHCR-led soap tutorial on her phone, carefully following all the instructions.
“I have always liked making soap very, very much,” she said.
Sido is making soap for her children and other Syrian refugees in her community. Living in the southern part of the country, they were fortunate not to be affected by the August blast that killed about 200 people and damaged close to 200,000 homes in Beirut. But coronavirus weighs heavily on their minds. The country is experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases, with a daily rate in the thousands.
“We need soap now more than ever,” Sido said.
Back in Aleppo, Sido used to watch her parents boil ingredients to make the region’s renowned laurel soap. She has now learned how to use a cold process to make soap at home, with help from a virtual course offered by UNHCR.
“It reminds me that in our area in north Aleppo, we have a lot of olive oil. Despite this, people would still go out and buy soap,” she said. “But why do that when you can do it in your own home?”
It is refugees like Sido whom UNHCR aims to support through the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The training support also allows women to remain active while at home.
“With the spread of the virus, we saw that one of the main ways to stop it … is to wash hands and [practice] personal hygiene,” says Safaa Hanjou, a community-based protection officer with UNHCR in Lebanon. “We found that there is a great need for soap, but at the same time, [making soap] will provide psychological benefit in that … women … wanted to have a more active role in society.”
While her sons finish their homework, Sido sits in her living room and carves petals into a freshly made bar of soap, creating a flower. She smiles as she works.
“It’s something good for me, and it can benefit other people, too,” she says. “I would like to teach other women how to make it.”
This piece was provided by UNHCR and has been edited and published with permission.
Lebanese government estimates indicate that the country hosted 1.5 million Syrian refugees in 2019. In addition to the challenges this community faces as a result of years of conflict and displacement, COVID-19 has brought health and economic strains.
In June, at the direction of the World Health Organization, UNHCR received $10 million from the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund — created by the United Nations Foundation, in partnership with the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation — to support its lifesaving work to combat the pandemic in some of the world’s most vulnerable places.
YOU CAN HELP
Every action counts in the fight against COVID-19. By supporting the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, you can help continued efforts to fight the coronavirus and protect the lives of refugees around the world. The Fund is the fastest and most effective way for individuals, companies, and organizations to support the work of the World Health Organization and its partners in battling the virus.