Syrian students put COVID-19 advice at mobile users’ fingertips

09-11-2020
Camille Dupire

Connected to their computers with their headphones plugged in day and night, Ahmad Talal Almhaimad, Mohammad Alwahabi & Yousef Madnou have been working together relentlessly since the COVID-19 pandemic reached Jordan. Instead of being discouraged by the challenging situation, the three Syrian students seized the crisis as a golden opportunity to put their creative friendship into motion. 

“When we saw the COVID-19 global crisis unfold and its threat on humanity, we thought about ways to use our software engineering degree to contribute to the wellbeing of our society,” the trio remembers. They also saw it as a chance to show their appreciation to Jordan, which welcomed them after they fled Syria a few years ago. “We wanted to be able to help our society fight this virus. And it felt very rewarding to be able to help.”    

Ahmad, Mohammad and Yousef met during their time at the Zarqa University, which they were able to attend thanks to the EDU-SYRIA II scholarship funded by the European Union under the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the EU Madad Fund. They remembered being appalled by the suffering the pandemic was causing for healthcare workers. “We saw the hard work and efforts of establishments and independent workers who were helping communities fight the virus, each in their area of expertise.” So they decided to do the same.

The three men fostered their electronics and engineering knowledge and skills to come up with an innovative smartphone application to help curb the spread of the deadly virus. “As independent programmers, we had very limited resources, so we had to be creative,” they recall, noting that, due to the lockdown, they were not able to meet physically. “It was challenging as we live in three different governorates but we managed to do everything remotely, over the Internet.”

At the start of April, they began the engineering, planning and programme encoding phase. Only six days later, the smartphone application was up and running, giving citizens a free-of-charge “intuitive and easy to use” tool to inform and protect themselves from the virus. “As independent programmers, we had very limited resources, so we had to be creative,” they recall, noting that, due to the lockdown, they were not able to meet physically. “It was challenging as we live in three different governorates but we managed to do everything remotely, over the Internet.”

At the start of April, they began the engineering, planning and programme encoding phase. Only six days later, the smartphone application was up and running, giving citizens a free-of-charge “intuitive and easy to use” tool to inform and protect themselves from the virus. The COVID-19 app works as a data harvesting technology, providing users with the latest government data on the pandemic, the number of infected patients, the number of survivors, among other information. “The application is constantly updated to ensure information is the latest recorded by the government,” the students explain. If that was not impressive enough, the app does not limit its data to Jordan but encompasses statistics from the entire world!   

EDU-SYRIA

EDU-SYRIA is a host of projects that chronologically extended over the last five years and still going, 2015 and further. The projects are EU funded via MADAD in response to the Syrian crises. Hence, the primary beneficiaries are Syrian refugee and underprivileged Jordanian youths. The ultimate objective of the projects is to improve the livelihood of those beneficiaries by providing them with higher education opportunities through a cluster of scholarships that are granted every cohort of high school graduate since 2015.

EDU-SYRIA I was launched in late 2015 where a fund of 4 million Euros supported a total of 390 higher education accredited degree, master’s, bachelor’s, and vocational programs. Another MADAD grant was bequeathed, 11 million Euros, inaugurating EDU-SYRIA II, the second wave of the project, October 2016. The project was the largest in Jordan in terms of the number of the higher education degree scholarships that was awarded, specifically, 1000. The EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis program presented a smaller endowment of 2.6 million Euros in January 2019 allowing for additional 200 higher education degree scholarships. EDU-SYRIA III was launched in January 2020 with a fund of 15 million Euros. The components/actions of the last wave were more diversified in nature and design where some aiming to pick up the young adults who dropped out or leaked out of school. The direct total of beneficiaries is 2245 Syrian refugees and underprivileged Jordanians.

EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis

Since its establishment in December 2014, a significant share of the EU’s non-humanitarian aid for Syria’s neighbouring countries is provided through the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the EU ‘Madad’ Fund. The Trust Fund brings a more coherent and integrated EU aid response to the crisis and primarily addresses economic, educational, protection, social, and health needs of refugees from Syria in neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, and supports overstretched local communities and their administrations.

Read more

EU Delegation to Jordan website

EDU-SYRIA website

EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis website