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September 3, 2020

Beirut explosion: Mental health of people affected is under threat

Three weeks after the Beirut blast, Lebanon’s future is dark. Caused by up to 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate irresponsibly stored in the port for more than six years, the explosion killed as many as 180 people, injured 7,000 others, and destroyed 10,000 buildings – around one-third of the city. But rather than acting as a positive jolt to the system as some hoped, the catastrophe has only thrust Lebanon deeper into crisis. 

After responding to the devastating explosion, SEMA US is focusing on restocking medical supplies, strengthening measures against Covid-19, and providing psychosocial support.

Physical wounds have been treated, but the catastrophe and the sudden loss of basic security have done extensive damage to the mental health of people affected. Many patients have asked for sedatives to get over the next twenty-four hours. Our specialists deployed in Lebanon are helping provide psychosocial care for these trauma victims.

SEMA US is also worried that the recent tragedy could lead to an increase in the already rising number of Covid-19 cases in Lebanon.

We are responding in the aftermath of the massive explosion that occurred in Beirut, Lebanon on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The explosion damaged buildings across a wide swath of the city, leaving many homes without windows or doors. Many people do not want to leave their homes out of security concerns. Volunteers are handing out food packages, visiting vulnerable people and bringing them essential supplies. They also continue to assist in the cleanup efforts.

SEMA US has just started delivering lifesaving healthcare services to vulnerable Syrian refugees and host communities in Lebanon this year.

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.

July 30, 2020

Hope in Hard Places: Offering Prayers for Syria

More than 6.2 million people are now internally displaced within Syria, and more than 5.6 million have fled to neighboring countries as refugees. Syrians desperately hope for peace. Their children shouldn’t have to grow up in a war zone or as refugees. Offer a prayer for Syria, whose people are enduring their 10th year of civil war and displacement.

Pray for life-saving assistance and newfound hope for Syrian refugees.

Syrian families have been uprooted from their homes by the fighting, displaced in their own country, or fleeing to neighboring countries for safety.

Many Syrians lived comfortable, middle-class lives before they left. But when families flee in the middle of bombings and other violence, they don’t have the luxury of taking all their possessions. They arrive at refugee camps lacking clothes, shoes, food, water, toiletries, blankets, and even their government-issued identification papers, which makes it even more challenging to get assistance. They have nothing to help them survive.

Pray for children’s protection.

Syrian children face many safety and wellness issues. They’re especially susceptible to malnutrition, dehydration, and diarrheal diseases. Because of the Syrian health system’s deterioration, many have not been immunized or kept current on vaccinations, and outbreaks of measles and polio have occurred both in Syria and in refugee camps. Due to the nature of living in chaotic, overcrowded, and unfamiliar situations, children also are more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Many children also must work, which leaves them open to other dangers. Without income, parents may marry their daughters off as young as 13.

Pray for education for the children of Syria.

Many refugee families can’t afford rent, let alone school fees, uniforms, and books. If lucky enough to attend school, child refugees often find it difficult to enroll and participate in classes not in their native language. Meanwhile, millions of children in Syria can’t attend class because schools are in ruins, teachers are missing or deceased, and security is a concern. The education of an entire generation of Syrians is at risk.

Pray that people worldwide will respond to this humanitarian crisis.

Now on its 10th year, the Syrian war and the chaos it has bred have become background noise to many people — even those who consider themselves compassionate. The consequences of the conflict keep many caring individuals at a comfortable distance. But there is an urgent need for donors to allocate funds to meet this humanitarian emergency, for people to raise a cry of prayer and support for people in desperate circumstances, and for all of us to find a way to engage meaningfully for the sake of Syrian children and their families.

We have no idea how hard it is for them to be living in tents yet refuse to give in to despair. What gives them hope is seeing people from all over the world caring enough to help.

July 23, 2020

MASSIVE UNDERFUNDING OF GLOBAL HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE PLAN FOR COVID-19

As the COVID-19 global pandemic spreads across the globe, vulnerable populations including the world’s more than 70 million displaced people will be among the hardest hit. Economies and job markets are bearing enormous strain, with millions out of work amid shelter in place orders. Governments around the world are attempting to provide the necessary testing, tracing, and care to those suffering from the virus without sufficient resources or health care systems. Border restrictions and struggling supply chains mean it is harder to deliver aid to those who need it.

As countries struggle to keep up, underlying vulnerabilities among displaced populations in need are exacerbating the effects of the crisis. This year, the world is facing skyrocketing food insecurity, increased intensity of natural disasters, and underlying health issues especially among children.

Available funding is in no way sufficient. Without an end in sight, the ultimate scale and scope of the COVID-19 crisis is still unknown.

But one thing is certain: if we, people, do not step up now, the worst is yet to come. 

The consequences of large funding gaps will not surprise anyone: without needed resources, there will be exacerbated health problems and a delay in the delivery of lifesaving aid.

But there is a more important reason to act: there is a moral imperative in this time of need. Donors have traditionally understood the importance of such investments in an international response. The work that funding supports, from food assistance to medical care to livelihood programming to strengthening responses for children, is essential and saves lives.

We don’t know how far this crisis will escalate the vulnerabilities for populations worldwide. But we do know significant and urgent investment in international assistance is the right—and necessary—thing to do.

July 16, 2020

SEMA US EXPANDS HEALTHCARE SERVICES TO LEBANON; JUST IN TIME TO RESPOND TO COVID-19

How can you ask homeless people to stay at home to avoid infection?

For people dependent on daily activities for their survival such as day laborers and those living in precarious or overcrowded settings, self-isolation and lockdowns are not realistic. In some places, hundreds of thousands—sometimes even millions—of people live in difficult and dangerous conditions, without any social safety net. It is crucial to provide people with the means to protect themselves and others.

SEMA US has expanded its healthcare programs in Lebanon, just in time to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 response primarily focuses on increasing access to healthcare for vulnerable communities including Syrian and Palestinian refugees, and will involve adapting medical activities in its own facilities, health promotion in the community, and supporting hospitals with their fight against the outbreak.

We are preparing our teams to receive cases in our facilities, in response to the emerging needs of the Lebanese population as well as the Syrian and Palestinian refugees or anyone else in Bekaa Valley. However, most patients with COVID-19 do not need hospitalization, which makes community intervention a vital element of any response in order to decrease the pressure on hospitals. SEMA US teams are conducting a series of intensive health awareness sessions about COVID-19 for vulnerable refugee communities. 

We still intend to keep most of our regular medical programs running by strengthening infection prevention and control measures. The non-COVID-19 medical needs of the communities cannot be ignored.

If medical care were to falter, then common childhood killers like measles, malaria, and diarrhea, would go untreated. It shouldn’t. Other essential services SEMA US provides, such as sexual and reproductive health care, psychological treatment, emergency room services, maternity and surgical wards, and treatment of patients living with communicable diseases remain operational. 

We are striving to find ways to keep doing as much of our lifesaving work as possible while adapting to the multiple and serious challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. You can help us make a greater impact by making a gift to SEMA US

June 20, 2020

How affected are Syrian refugee children?

Many Syrian children have never known a time without war. For millions of them, the conflict has stolen their childhood and affected their long-term physical and mental health as well as their prospects for the future. Many children caught up in this crisis have lost family members and friends to the violence, suffered physical and psychological trauma, and had to leave school.

Here are some specific ways the Syrian war is affecting children:

  • Diseases and malnutrition: Children are susceptible to ailments brought on by poor sanitation, including diarrheal diseases. They may miss vaccinations and regular health checkups, especially in cut-off areas. In poor housing, cold weather increases the risk of pneumonia and other respiratory infections.
  • Child labor and child soldiers: Many refugee children have to work to support their families. Often they work in dangerous or demeaning circumstances for little pay. Some are forcibly recruited children who serve as fighters, human shields, and in support roles.
  • Lack of education opportunities: About 40% of Syrian refugee children are out of school. In Syria, the war reversed two decades of educational progress. One-third of schools are not having classes because they have been damaged, destroyed, or occupied by military groups or displaced people.

If you could see through a Syrian refugee child’s eyes, what would life look like? For them, kite flying keeps aloft memories of family, friends, and their once-promising future. The children salvage remnants of their war-shattered lives, even if it’s just with a dirty plastic bag that can barely stand up to the breeze.

SEMA US makes sure refugee communities and their hosts have access to healthcare and proper nutrition. We provide help for the psychological wounds they have suffered, and we reduce the risks of being abused, neglected, and exploited. We can help people live healthy lives, even while they wait for an opportunity to return home.

You can, too.

Learn more: www.sema-us.org

May 29, 2020

Unbounded Compassion: Inside SEMA’s COVID-19 Response

SEMA medical teams have joined the fight against COVID-19 as the new coronavirus disease spreads to more than 200 countries.

It’s been incredible to see people working around the clock, trying to adapt, trying to learn, trying to collaborate to save as many lives as possible, all while working in the face of so much death.

Healthy Staff

A part of our job is providing support to the medical staff inside the hospitals. We’re doing everything we can to keep the doctors and nurses healthy because if they fall ill, there will be nobody to treat patients.

Proper Disinfection

We have a lot of experience with infection prevention and control from the epidemics we face across the world, so we’re helping to create pathways and processes within the hospitals to ensure that staff are protected from infection and that people who aren’t infected don’t become infected. 

SEMA Education

We’re all on a steep learning curve with this disease. We have different medical experts working side by side, and learning from the hospital doctors who were involved in the response from the beginning. The doctors and nurses here have been trained, they are at the forefront of the pandemic and have developed a clinical capacity that is extremely valuable.

Limitless Work

We opened 2 new hospitals specifically for COVID-19 patients With 100 admission beds and 20 ICU beds .

Outside the hospitals, we’re doing outreach work within the population, working with social workers, general practitioners and family doctors to help treat people in their homes and in facilities for the elderly.

As all hospitals are reaching their capacity, there is no choice but to treat some patients with less severe symptoms at home. 

Making Impact

In a crisis like this where needs are overwhelming, impactful choices have to be made. We at SEMA  know this very well from the critical situations we face around the world. 

We will continue to provide support here for as long as we’re needed. We are also preparing to intervene in other refugee camps and regions, including those where the epidemic is just starting and where prevention measures can have a big impact.

Syrian refugees are just some of the communities we cannot afford to let down. For them, COVID-19 is yet another assault on their survival. We hope this pandemic not only teaches us to wash our hands but makes us stand together to help establish accessible and better-equipped healthcare for all. 

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