Month: December 2020

December 30, 2020

Lebanon says first case of new coronavirus variant detected on flight from London

Lebanon has detected its first case of the new variant of the coronavirus, which has been spreading rapidly in parts of Britain, on a flight arriving from London, it said on Friday. 

“The detection of the first case of the new variant of Covid-19 on Middle East Airlines flight 202 coming from London on Dec. 21,” the country’s caretaker health minister said on Twitter, urging all passengers on the flight and their families to take precautionary measures. 

A surge in coronavirus infections is straining Lebanon’s healthcare system, which was already struggling amid a financial crisis and following the huge port explosion in August which damaged hospitals in Beirut. 

Lebanon, with an estimated population of 6 million people, has reported more than 1,000 deaths as a result of COVID-19.

We’ve seen how it can devastate fragile health systems, and how it can affect the most vulnerable in places like refugee camps. But for many, the virus itself isn’t the worst effect of the pandemic. Displaced people and refugees around the world are facing a multitude of obstacles including lack of health care and economic opportunities.

Our operational focus, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, remains unchanged. From hard-hit areas to conflict and crisis settings, SEMA US has sought to reach the most vulnerable people, delivering medical care and other assistance to remote communities, people on the move, people who are homeless or housing insecure, and elderly people living in long-term care facilities. 

As the pandemic exacerbates existing health care challenges for our patients, we need your help to rapidly shore up resources ahead of 2021 and ensure we can continue our lifesaving work.

December 23, 2020

SEMA US: 2020 Impact Report

2020 saw the unprecedented confluence of a deadly global pandemic with natural disasters worldwide. In response to these unrelenting catastrophes, SEMA US this year worked on more fronts than ever before. This report provides an overview of how SEMA US has leveraged support from generous individuals, companies, and foundations to significantly expand operations while continuing ongoing services and support for local health systems in 2020.

By the numbers

  • $310,000 in donations
  • 19,800+ accommodated patients and provided free pharmacy
  • $20,000 spent on prostheses for amputated patients
  • 100 sponsored nursing and paramedics students

Strengthening health systems during COVID-19

SEMA US equips low-resource communities with health care services, medicines and supplies on an ongoing basis and in response to emergencies. In 2020, the organization has been called upon to continue its support for medically vulnerable communities and those still affected by disasters from previous years while the global Covid-19 pandemic has intensified. As most global commercial and humanitarian activity significantly contracted due to Covid-19, SEMA US drastically expanded its response efforts to: 

  • Provide medical materials, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), having delivered thousands of masks, gloves, and other PPE items free-of-charge to health workers on the frontlines of the pandemic 
  • Provide ventilators to help establish ICUs in community health centers to support their vital front-line role in providing access to health care, including Covid-19-related services
  • Distribute hygiene bags which contains cleaning and hygiene materials to equip underprivileged refugee families affected by healthcare exclusion
  • Raise awareness in refugee communities where access to proper medical information is lacking
  • Provide proper healthcare workers’ training and education regarding COVID-19
  • Provide screening triage areas with immediate temporal isolation shelters/tents
  • Continuously disinfect SEMA medical centers, hospitals and offices

We do not know for certain how long this pandemic will last, but what is certain is that primary care and health centers are critical to our response.

Reaching out after the 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:

  • Organized a donation of wound kits 
  • Treated people injured, free of charge
  • Evaluated whether patients who need further surgery can be referred to and treated in one of our hospitals after they have been stabilized
  • Assessed the most pressing needs in hospitals
  • Identified additional ways to assist people under such tragic circumstances

Supporting women and children

In low-resource communities, improvements in maternal care and children’s health strengthen health systems overall. SEMA US teams at our medical projects, although trying their best to keep the core services running, are already seeing the painful indirect effects of the pandemic.

In 2020, SEMA US has supported midwives and other maternal and child healthcare providers with medicines and supplies, including:

  • Equipping trained midwives to ensure safe births in medically vulnerable communities during the pandemic
  • Providing access to sexual and reproductive healthcare
  • Expanding with a Women and Children clinic in Lebanon to provide general medical assistance to women and children affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare access

As 2020 comes to a close and we reflect on a year shadowed by fear, uncertainty, and loss, many of us are also reminded of how precious life is. This holiday season, consider giving a gift that helps save lives at a time when so many lack access to health care.

December 16, 2020

Saving the Lives of Children with Thalassaemia in Lebanon

SEMA US teams in Lebanon have been treating children with thalassaemia. A genetic blood disorder, in its acute forms, thalassaemia requires intensive treatment that SEMA US provides in a pediatric clinic.

Thalassaemia is a hereditary disease caused by an alteration in the genes required to synthesise haemoglobin, the molecule that is responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood. Patients left untreated can have considerably shorter life expectancy. Treatment requires regular blood transfusions. However, this causes iron overload, leading to heart, liver and other diseases, so thalassaemia patients need iron chelation drugs.

It  is a difficult disease for any child to live with. It requires recurrent admissions – sometimes three times per month, recurrent needle pricks, taking medications every day for the rest of their lives and living with the complications of the disease. Children with thalassaemia have to deal with the pressure of leading lives that are different in many ways from their peers’, and of learning to manage a chronic condition.

But living with thalassaemia is even harder for refugee children in Lebanon, where access to public healthcare is extremely limited.

COVID-19, Beirut explosion, makes treatment more difficult

The collapse of the Lebanese economy, compounded by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, has made it even more difficult for Syrian refugee families to access already overstretched public health services. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted families of children with thalassaemia in many ways. 

Free treatment for refugees and vulnerable Lebanese

Our program is providing free-of-charge, comprehensive care to children, whatever their nationality. Most of the child patients today are Syrian refugees, though some come from vulnerable Lebanese families.

With the economic collapse in Lebanon and the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic hitting vulnerable families the hardest, the need for the program to continue providing lifesaving care to these children is greater than ever.

December 9, 2020

The Role of the Youth in Containing COVID-19

Undeniably, the COVID-19 has posed many challenges globally. Lebanon is not an exception to this pandemic; neither has it been exempted from the infection and effects of Coronavirus. Its impacts are felt especially to the vulnerable groups including refugee children, women and the elderly. Closure of schools has also disrupted children’s ability to learn and interact with others. The containment at homes has added stress on family members. Working from home is also proving to be a hectic task. As Lebanon is adapting to the new situation, many are also at risk of losing their employment.

While so many of us are dealing with new realities created by this pandemic, we make sure SEMA US continues to provide lifesaving care to Lebanon. Our teams of doctors, nurses, logisticians, and other staff are responding to everything, from the spread of COVID-19 to the aftermath of conflict and natural disasters. We continue the impact on our ability to ensure medical care services are uninterrupted — even during a pandemic.

As youth who are yet to be financially capable to help support the healthcare needs of many, they can invest more time on awareness during this time of COVID-19. They should be encouraging the community to practice social distancing, hand hygiene and self-isolation. They can also work with the local government and community based organizations on offering psychosocial support to the affected. They may actively engage in social media campaigns and awareness of the pandemic. Nonetheless, more awareness ought to be directed in ending refugee stigma together with the existing issue on violence against children and women.

SEMA US calls all community members to flatten the curve of COVID-19, as it requires self discipline and awareness to spare the underprivileged communities.

December 3, 2020

Forced to flee: Top 3 countries refugees are coming from

Around the world, 79.5 million people have been forcibly displaced. That’s the most since World War II, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Since most people remain displaced within their home country, how many refugees are there in the world? About 26 million people worldwide have fled to other countries as refugees. Another 4.2 million people have applied for refugee status, but not received it yet. More than half of refugees are children.

Here are the top three countries of origin that account for the most refugees in the world today. 

1. Syria — 6.7 million refugees and asylum-seekers

Most Syrians who are refugees because of the Syrian war remain in the Middle East. Turkey hosts 3.6 million, the largest number of refugees hosted by any country in the world. Syrian refugees are also in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. During 2018, 1.4 million refugees returned home to Syria. Returnees face a daunting situation, including lack of infrastructure and services and danger from explosive devices. About 6.2 million Syrians remain displaced inside the country.

2. Venezuela — 4.5 million refugees, asylum-seekers, and people displaced abroad

Years of economic and political instability in Venezuela caused millions of Venezuelans to leave the country between 2014 and the end of 2019. They migrate to seek food, work, and a better life, most of them to nearby countries. Many Venezuelans on the move lack legal status and need international protection and aid.

World Vision provides assistance to Venezuelan migrants in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. In Venezuela, we are working through partner organizations to make life better for children and families.

3. Afghanistan — 2.7 million refugees

About 2.7 million people from Afghanistan are living as refugees, representing the second-largest refugee population in the world. Pakistan hosts nearly 1.4 million, including some second- or third-generation Afghan refugees who have never lived in their home country. Some have been forced to return home from neighboring countries, but increased violence in Afghanistan since 2015 has led to a new surge of asylum-seekers. More than 4 million Afghans are displaced within the country due to conflict, drought, and other natural disasters.

How you can help refugees:

  • Pray  for mothers, fathers, and children who struggle to survive as refugees. 
  • Give  to SEMA US to help provide for their medical needs. 
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