Written by Dr. Bernard Sabella, Executive Secretary
Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees
The Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) is pleased to share this update in this challenging time. In the Middle East, the situation is still tricky, and the financial condition makes us face significant challenges. Recently it has become impossible to walk between the Palestinian and Israeli territories without quarantine, which makes life incredibly difficult for many Palestinians. We pray that the situation will change for the better.
How Gaza is coping with COVID-19
Although the virus was carried to Gaza by returnees from outside the country as early as March, transmission in the community took place late on August 24. So far, 7231 people in Gaza have been infected, 2647 active cases, 4547 recovered, 37 died. About 250 cases are reported daily, 1600 tests are performed daily. Nearly 100 healthcare providers have been affected. The health system is already facing severe limitations, limited resources, lack of medicines and equipment. There is a severe shortage of ventilators with only 4 per 100,000 people, while the ratio in Israel is 50:100,000. Two hospitals have been designated to treat Covid 19 cases in Gaza.
We have set up an e-learning platform for the TVET programs that we can continue remotely, such as graphic design and multimedia. These programs now continue to run normally online. In some training programs, such as those for secretaries, we have started to run the training again at a reasonable distance and divided into small groups. We hope that this model will work and that we will be able to extend it to the programs in the carpentry, electrical and metal workshop.
We coordinate all our activities with the Ministry of Health (MoH). We have redesigned our services to minimize the possibility of infection transmission among beneficiaries. This includes temperature control, social distancing with the help of hygiene gel, hygiene procedures, masks for patients, alcohol, changing the flow of beneficiaries, re-scheduling some services and suspending non-essential services. At present, two clinics have been opened; the third one is still in the red zone. We have provided hotline services to support beneficiaries and have established e-health counseling centers. We also send e-mobile messages about Covid-19, health education, nutrition. We keep the essential services running, such as ANC, infant services and the general clinic.
The lockdown led to the suspension of some services, such as home visits in dental and obstetrics, but we have resumed most of these services. To protect our beneficiaries and employees, we have redesigned our programs to ensure safety. None of our employees has been infected, and none of our beneficiaries has been infected because our programs serve them. The indicators are affected to some extent by the lockdown. We are trying to resume operations as far as possible. Increasing poverty means that patients are no longer able to pay the fees for health services, and this leads to an increase in poverty-related diseases such as malnutrition. The suspension of health services in the MoH combined with the limited capacity of the MoH has increased the demand for health services.
How Lebanon is coping with COVID-19
For more than two months, Lebanon has been sliding into a worsening coronavirus outbreak that is now threatening to overwhelm the country’s fragile healthcare system. The state of six million people has recorded 83,697 cases of Covid-19, including 652 deaths since February.
As the number of new cases spike, deep mistrust of the government, coupled with poor communication and sometimes-contradictory policies, mean new measures have often been resisted and flouted. We want to share with you two stories from our beneficiaries of the Bourj El Shamali Camp in Tyre-South of Lebanon:
- Ahmad Mousa (72) years old has eight children, one of whom is mentally disabled. He suffers from a permanently bent back as the result of a severe disc problem. His only income is from the collection of plastic bottles which he sells for recycling. The shopkeepers and some households give him food for his family. His eldest is the only one who earns some money and works in agriculture. He and his family are trying very hard to take care of the Coronavirus and take as many precautions as possible. He only leaves the camp to get medicines for his retarded childe from the UNRWA clinic. He expressed his sincere gratitude to JCC for the voucher he used to buy food and hygiene needs.
- Nabiha Yousef (44) has three children, but as a result of her diabetes health complications, she had to have her right foot cut off. She is desperately trying to raise the money to have an artificial limb fitted, which will cost $1280. The Red Cross and the UNRWA have given her part of the amount, and she is struggling to feed her family and collect the rest of the amount needed from a small shop she runs in her house. She was overjoyed with the voucher as the money she saved by using the coupon allowed her to save on the money she would have to spend on feeding the family and so added it to her collection for her foot.
In the Dbayeh Camp in Lebanon, the Coronavirus and its effect on the people and the situation generally was and is still very difficult. First of all, the effect of home quarantine it was a hard pressure on all families, then the lack of work and jobs, the lack of incomes for the people, the bad economic situation that the country is passing through, with the difficulty of bringing a morsel of food, without mentioning the people's moral condition and the psychological impact on their lives.
One of the problems that were a challenge for us if someone in the camp is infected with the virus. There is not enough space or a chamber for the individual use of self-quarantine. Also, there is no more than one bathroom in every house and the closeness of the houses to each other. With the onset of the crisis, houses were sprayed and sterilized by the joint Christian committee youth, sterilizers, and protective masks were distributed. Food supplies were distributed. Awareness campaigns were raised and posters were placed on the roads.
Education and activities via social media during the quarantine. And during attending the classes, we took all measures, social distancing and wearing masks. Our community center also provided assistance from our organization, as we were able to distribute food vouchers. We also helped a good number of organizations to distribute food boxes to our people to face this difficult crisis.
We remain steadfast in our determination to serve, to live with the virus and to hope for better days.