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The White Helmets participates in a campaign to combat leishmaniasis with MENTOR Initiative

The Leishmaniasis prevention campaign covers four main areas in northwestern Syria, benefiting more than 362,000 individuals, including 201,000 beneficiaries from the spraying program and 116,000 beneficiaries from insect repellent protective conditions. Additionally, 45,000 beneficiaries will receive mosquito nets as part of the campaign.

The White Helmets join the MENTOR Initiative in a campaign to combat leishmaniasis in four regions of northwestern Syria. The campaign, which started in April, aims to combat the spread of the disease by implementing preventive and educational measures. Leishmaniasis has become increasingly prevalent in Syria, exacerbated by the ongoing conflict and resulting fragile infrastructure, as well as poor sanitation services over the past 12 years.

The White Helmets and the MENTOR Initiative have signed a memorandum of understanding to launch a campaign against leishmaniasis that will last for six months, with the possibility of an extension. The campaign will involve three main preventive measures: insecticide spraying, distribution of insect repellents to residents in the camps, and distribution of special mosquito nets with narrow openings that prevent mosquitoes from entering. These efforts aim to protect the local population from the spread of leishmaniasis.

Insecticide spraying operations are being carried out in four districts of the Afrin region, namely Rajo, Bulbul, Sheikh al-Hadid, and Sharan, located north of Aleppo. Additionally, the district of Darat Izza in the Jabal Semaan area in the western countryside of Aleppo is also being targeted.

Preventive measures containing insecticides to repel insects are being distributed, as well as special mosquito nets to camps in the areas of Harem, Jisr al-Shughour, and Afrin. Over 116 thousand beneficiaries are estimated to receive the preventive conditions, while more than 45 thousand beneficiaries will receive special mosquito nets.

The areas selected for the campaign were determined based on the potential for the spread of leishmaniasis, as the region is favorable for the breeding of sand flies - the vector of leishmaniasis - which was exacerbated by the February 2023 earthquake.

Currently, 48 volunteers from The White Helmets are participating in the agreed-upon areas. During the implementation of the activities, White Helmets volunteers use personal protective equipment produced in The White Helmets factories, which include medical masks, isolation suits, and plastic face shields. The volunteers also provide the necessary logistical requirements to carry out the campaign in the aforementioned areas.

The MENTOR Initiative played a crucial role in supporting White Helmets volunteers in their efforts to combat leishmaniasis. They provided essential training to the volunteers on insecticide spraying techniques, including guidance on how to use them correctly to minimize potential side effects. Additionally, the organization provided technical supervision and guidance throughout the campaign.

To help protect against the spread of leishmaniasis, the MENTOR Initiative also supplied the volunteers with preventive conditions and special mosquito nets. They provided technical support on the proper distribution of these items to ensure maximum effectiveness. Furthermore, the organization provided vital logistical support to the volunteers to help them carry out their activities efficiently.

This year's campaign comes after the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and northwestern Syria. The earthquake caused massive damage to an already fragile infrastructure, which increased the risk of further spread of leishmaniasis.

The Mentor Initiative's plan for 2023 is to provide protection and preventive services for 1,800,000 beneficiaries in northwest Syria. Through cooperation and expertise sharing between The White Helmets and the Mentor Initiative, the spraying campaigns can reach nearly 2,000,000 beneficiaries, surpassing Mentor's original plan. Furthermore, 161,000 beneficiaries have received preventive conditions and mosquito nets treated with insecticide.

The White Helmets have established specialized teams to combat the spread of leishmaniasis by targeting the factors that contribute to the proliferation of sand flies. These teams work on filling swamps, transporting garbage from populated areas to landfills for safe disposal, repairing and opening sewage networks, and educating school children about the importance of hygiene. Additionally, the volunteers transfer infected individuals to medical centers for treatment.

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease caused by a single-celled organism known as Leishmania, which is transmitted to humans by certain types of sandflies. Due to the destroyed infrastructure and poor sanitation services in the northwestern regions of Syria, the area is a fertile environment for the spread of the disease. With the approach of summer and rising temperatures, the likelihood of sand fly transmission increases, particularly in areas such as camps for displaced persons, earthquake shelters, and villages without proper sanitation services or near swamps and landfills.

Each year, hundreds of civilians are infected with the disease, and without timely treatment, skin deformities and other complications can arise. Children are particularly vulnerable to infection, and some cases can even be fatal.