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Guiding the way in the pandemic era: Five Expo-backed projects making a difference during COVID-19 – ZAWYA

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From educational support and COVID-19 response effectiveness, to providing new income channels for women
DUBAI – From educational support and COVID-19 response effectiveness, to providing new income channels for women, a number of organisations, social enterprises and start-ups – all supported by Expo 2020 Dubai – have come up with innovative ideas to minimise the impact of the pandemic on their communities and better equip them for the future. 
Already having a positive impact, these clever solutions span both Expo 2020’s Global Best Practice Programme, which highlights projects that have provided tangible solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges and can be replicated and expanded elsewhere, and Expo Live, the Innovation Impact Grant Programme that accelerates and promotes creative solutions that improve lives while preserving our world. 
UAE-based Project Maji devised the Maji Bucket to enable access to safe water. This low-tech and low-cost invention, produced by people of determination in Ghana, ensured safe handwashing in rural communities – a critical practice during the pandemic. Combined with a campaign that trained thousands of people on proper hand hygiene, Project Maji – a Global Best Practice Programme project – introduced a foot-operated solution that eliminates the need for touch and successfully curbs the risk of contagion and spread of bacteria. At USD 30, the bucket is highly affordable in comparison to other devices, and is made of locally available products that allow for its easy replication and bulk production, such as the inclusion of a bicycle handbrake as a foot pedal.
Filipino fintech start-up InvestEd is among the Expo Live grantees, known as Global Innovators, which received additional assistance during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic through the USD 1 million Emergency Relief Fund (ERF). InvestEd provides loans and financial training to low-income students, allowing them to complete their college education to set them up for successful careers. However, as a result of the pandemic, almost half of InvestEd’s student borrowers became unemployed, losing their source of income. The organisation then used the ERF to increase coaching services to help students find other job opportunities, provide relief support to its investees and emergency loans for displaced students, as well as offer crisis coaching.
Part of the Best Practice Programme, SitatByoot works directly with vulnerable communities – primarily women – in Jordan, helping them enter the labour market and grow their businesses online. In light of COVID-19, it launched a new vocational training programme, Tadreeb Live, focusing on sewing, crocheting, embroidery, and entrepreneurial skills, which can be delivered both online and offline. Women learn to accelerate their online home-based businesses, have opportunities to be employed by local garment factories, or become a certified “Maker” through SitatByoot’s sister eCommerce website, Makesy, which facilitates business opportunities for the women.
Overcoming misinformation and enabling communities to check their symptoms accurately is critical to a fast, effective COVID-19 response. Best Practice Programme project reach52 delivers healthcare to rural populations across low- and middle-income countries through its ‘offline-first’ health platform and networks of agents. One way it responded to the pandemic was equipping frontline community health workers, through its platform, with offline-first mobile apps to provide education and support in hard-to-reach communities. Focusing on the Philippines, Cambodia and India, the organisation’s curriculum on COVID-19 prevention and transmission was rapidly adapted, translated and uploaded to reach52’s core application, resulting in more than 6,000 upskilled community health workers and estimated engagement with more than 500,000 residents since the start of the pandemic.
An initiative of a UK-based mental health organisation, the MeeToo app alleviates anxiety by helping teenagers talk about difficult issues – including the emotional strain of the pandemic. Another ERF grantee, MeeToo used the additional funds to provide round-the-clock counselling services to at-risk children and teenagers in need and saw its user base more than double between January 2020 and January 2021. A safe, scalable intervention to the current crisis in youth mental health and, MeeToo has supported more than 60,000 people between the ages of 11 and 25 since launching in 2017.
To speak to representatives of the above projects – or any other Global Best Practice Programme or Expo Live projects providing innovative solutions to the challenges of COVID-19 – please contact [email protected].
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