Month: August 2020

August 27, 2020

COVID-19 outbreak in northwestern Syria threatens displaced people and health workers

Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in northwestern Syria in July, many additional people have tested positive in the area—more than half of whom are health care workers from the few remaining functional hospitals. SEMA US is concerned that the outbreak threatens to overwhelm a regional health system that is barely functioning after more than nine years of war.

The fact that the first confirmed COVID-19 cases come from the medical community is worrying. 

Just a few doctors temporarily put out of work and staying in isolation can make a huge difference when it comes to access to healthcare. 

Prior to the outbreak, human resources were already very limited in the health sector: Many doctors have fled the war in Syria, and hospitals often have to share medical personnel to remain open and function.

Two hospitals temporarily closed their doors after medics who had visited the hospitals tested positive for COVID-19. All medical personnel were asked to either self-isolate at home or to stay in quarantine, the hospitals said.

However, services were already reduced in some other hospitals in northwestern Syria. At the beginning of the outbreak, local health authorities asked hospitals to temporarily suspend all services in outpatient departments (OPDs) and non-essential surgeries. There have been occasions when some OPDs have already been closed for weeks in response to alerts or fears about COVID-19. Of course it is important to take precautionary measures, but this is a region that does not have the luxury of extra medical capacity to take on the burden of such measures. The fact that essential services have been temporarily closed or reduced and that we are facing even more human resources shortages than before the pandemic is extremely worrying.

The infected medics were working in several health facilities in Azaz district, in Aleppo governorate, and Sarmada and Ad-Dana districts, in Idlib governorate, so it is likely that the virus may have spread from what was thought to be a localized cluster of cases to a much larger area.

Doctors following the positive cases say testing and contact tracing is underway to attempt to isolate and prevent further spread of the virus. This is particularly important in northwestern Syria, where at least 2.7 million people are displaced, most of whom are living in overcrowded camps or makeshift shelters. 

Water and sanitation conditions there are dire, and physical distancing is impossible.

There is a real issue of testing capacity in northwestern Syria. Very few tests are available, and the accelerated testing because of these confirmed cases is fast depleting the available test kits. If these run out, there is a chance of fast spread in the camps that will be impossible to track and halt. And this poses alarming consequences for the most vulnerable people—the elderly and people with chronic diseases—who must be prioritized for the distribution of hygiene kits and other measures to protect them against the virus.

August 20, 2020

What’s Next for Lebanon?

The twin explosions at Beirut’s port on 4th of August were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon’s government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

The timing could not be worse. 

In recent weeks, Lebanon, one of the world’s most indebted countries, has spiraled into chaos after decades of economic mismanagement.

Crime is spiking as desperate Lebanese seek scarce basics like food and medicine, while others are turning to a swarming online barter economy to survive — clothes for baby formula? The deepening economic crisis recently pushed at least 500,000 children in Beirut into poverty, an aid group warned in July.

International observers, meanwhile, have questioned whether Lebanon has already breached the “failed state” threshold.

International support

So far, many countries have offered Beirut urgent humanitarian aid in the form of generators, medical equipment and personnel, and even some cash. SEMA US, for its part, is sending medical teams to for survivors, while keeping the rest of its core services active and open to everyone.

While immediate humanitarian support has been forthcoming — and encouraging — the aid itself is unlikely to pull Lebanon back from the brink. There are several reasons for this.

Humanitarian aid is one thing, but financial lifelines are another. 

Even before the pandemic crippled the global economy, the World Bank predicted that 50 percent of Lebanese could be living below the poverty line if current trends continued. Hoping to stave off its worst economic crisis since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990, Beirut has since appealed to international creditors like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a whopping $10 billion in financial assistance, but the IMF has refused to play ball.

The Corona Revolution

On top of the explosion, Lebanon is also dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, and the immediate short-term future is looking especially grim for ordinary people.

The country recorded its highest number of new coronavirus cases and deaths, with doctors expecting the number to rise due to overcrowding in hospitals following the blast.

The blast stunned a nation already reeling from an economic crisis and We’re trying to see how to best adapt our projects under such circumstances.

August 14, 2020

SEMA US reaches out after massive Beirut Explosion

Immediately after a devastating blast rocked Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4, some SEMA US staff who were already working in the country went to health facilities to see how they could assist medics responding to the emergency. SEMA US is organizing a donation of wound kits and treating people injured by the blast. We are also evaluating whether patients who need further surgery can be referred to and treated in one of our hospitals after they have been stabilized. We are assessing the most pressing needs in hospitals and identifying additional ways we can assist people under such tragic circumstances.

The massive explosion that occurred one week ago ripped through Beirut’s port warehouses, killing more than 150 people and injuring more than 6,000. The blast generated seismic shockwaves that shook the ground, shattering windows and destroying buildings across Beirut, a city already reeling from an economic crisis and a surge in COVID-19 infections.

On the night of the explosion, there was a huge influx of patients into health facilities across the capital, and infection and prevention measures could not be implemented properly, which eventually led to this increase. Over 300,000 people lost their homes [in the explosion] and have had to find other places to stay, which doesn’t make things any easier. This rise of cases is a major concern for us and we’re trying to see how to best adapt our projects under such circumstances.

What we can say today is that the situation in Beirut is still completely catastrophic—with people that are still missing. Search and rescue operations are still ongoing, looking for people that are still trapped in the rubble of their homes.

Hospitals in Beirut are still completely overwhelmed, not being able to cope with the thousands of wounded that have come to the hospitals.

We stand in solidarity: sending much courage to those wounded and traumatized, sending our condolences to families that lost loved ones.

Visit this link to know how you can help: https://www.launchgood.com/campaign/lebanon_explosion_emergency_medical_relief#!/

August 6, 2020

MASSIVE EXPLOSION IN BEIRUT COMPOUNDS LEBANON’S DIRE SITUATION

A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky.

In the hours after the explosion that shook the whole world, leaving at least 100 people dead and more than 4,000 injured, Palestinian and Syrian refugees living in and on the outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon leapt into action, offering their homes and their blood to those in need.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the blast was caused by more than 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which had been left unsecured at a warehouse near Beirut’s port for six years. Investigations are still underway, however, to determine what led up to the explosion.

People living at the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut also extended the same offer, hoping to provide refuge for those in need. Palestinian and Syrian refugees had also begun donating blood, hoping to help the thousands of victims injured in the blast, with many left critically injured by the explosion.

Knowing what it is like to feel “scared” and “with no place to go,” many refugees living in and on the outskirts of Beirut have rushed to help the thousands of people displaced by and injured in the explosion.

They know first hand what it means to not be able to sleep under a proper roof at night; they’ve experienced wars one generation after the other; they know how it feels to be scared and hungry with no place to go. So, their instinct is to offer all that when they see others going through it.

Meanwhile, SEMA US has also been working alongside Lebanese humanitarian organizations to support those affected by the explosion, as an outpouring of international support continues to flood into Lebanon. 

Our healthcare center in Bekaa, Lebanon will continue to serve the refugees and people in need, and it is open for all of those who need help.

Our heartfelt condolences go to the families who have lost their dear ones. Our thoughts are with those who are hurt and injured.

We stand in solidarity with the people of Beirut and Lebanon in these tragic and testing times.

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