Refugees washing their hands in the DRC
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Refugees get creative to stop coronavirus

Innovations from robots to blogs and hip-hop

Displaced people are used to living in uncertainty, and their ingenuity is now helping overcome the coronavirus pandemic – Congolese refugees in Angola are blogging, musicians in Niger are rapping, and refugees in Jordan are making robot soap dispensers out of Lego.

Marwan, a Syrian refugee studying robotics, designed and built the soap dispensing machine with his peers at the innovation lab inside Za’atari camp, home to more than 75,000 Syrian refugees.

It automatically dispenses hand sanitiser so people don't have to touch the bottle – reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“We made this robot to contribute as refugees. We want to be part of the fight against coronavirus,” says Marwan, who gladly shared the design so more of the robots could be made. 

“We as humans, as refugees, must help.”

Refugees at the Innovation Lab in Za’atari refugee camp have designed a robot prototype made from LEGO that automatically dispenses sanitiser so people don’t have to touch the bottle.

In Niger, hip-hop artist Danny Lee and the Raised Fists collective have recorded a song called 'Protect Your Life' to build awareness about the coronavirus.

The track is sung in the Djerma, Haoussa, Tamashek and French languages to include the internally displaced, refugee and host communities of Niger; and the collective, includes both Nigerans and  displaced alike.

Thousands of miles away, Roger Amaru’s passion for writing led to his work as a journalist before he fled conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). With the threat of COVID-19 sweeping through the Lovua settlement in Angola where he now lives, Roger has sprung into action again.

His blog began as a way to communicate what life was like for refugees in Angola, and is now dedicated to keeping fellow refugees educated and informed on the coronavirus facts.

Rapping refugees in Niger
Artists singing in both local and refugee voices take part in the Danny Lee coronavirus music video. © UNHCR/O. Girard

“This is something I take very seriously,” says Roger, 43. “My biggest fear is that people would panic. I still worry what will happen to us refugees, who are very vulnerable in such situations.”

Roger’s blog, called Histoires de Lovua – ‘Stories from Lovua’ in French – shares vital information on how to stay safe during the pandemic.

The team of 10 makes the best of limited resources. They share Roger’s smartphone to take photos and record interviews, then upload them via a shared laptop at the community centre – when the internet is working.

Omotola Akindipe, a UNHCR reporting officer in Angola, says we plan to provide the group with better quality smartphones to “enhance their work and also improve communication between them and our protection colleagues.”

“Life here can be tough, but we choose to focus on the positive things – like the skills, talent and resilience of refugees,” says Roger.

“We frequently wash our hands and we know that by taking care of ourselves, we are taking care of others,” he says.

Roger is a refugee in Angola and is blogging about what it's like to live in a refugee camp right now.
Roger Amaru, a refugee from DRC, set up a blogging team to help other refugees in Angola prevent coronavirus. © UNHCR Angola

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