Crisis Update from Dr. Olfat Mahmoud, Lebanon

Jun 17, 2020


Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA has received a COVID-19 crisis update from Dr. Olfat Mahmoud in Lebanon. The organization Olfat founded, the Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organization (PWHO), is taking action to protect refugee communities at risk from the Coronavirus.


               RE: The Situation in the Refugee Camps of Lebanon

         As the Director of the Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organization (PWHO), I’m going to introduce you to the situation of the Bourj el Barajneh and Shatila  refugee camps in Beirut, Lebanon.

         The refugee camps are overcrowded. In the Bourj el Barajneh camp there are approximately 40,000 refugees living in less than a one square kilometre.

         This refugee camp can be described as a web of narrow alleys with unsafe houses that are at risk of collapsing. It is a place where there is poverty and a lack of basic services such as running water, adequate drainage, and sewage. The refugee camp is not a sterile environment.  

         Besides living in terrible conditions, refugees in Lebanon are forbidden by the Lebanese government to work, which is why they do not have stable jobs. They have to take daily jobs to support themselves and their families. Now, with the lockdown since early March, the refugees no longer have enough money to buy food, medicine, and hygiene supplies.

         In the Bourj el Barajneh refugee camp, there are twelve entrances to the camp, which means it is hard to know whether the people entering and leaving the camp are infected by COVID-19. This is a danger to the large number of elderly people in the camp who suffer from chronic diseases.

         In the camp, it is difficult to practice personal distancing, because people live very close to each other. In some houses you have to enter other people’s homes to reach yours! What’s more, to self-isolate you need large houses with enough space, but houses in the camp are tiny; for example, two rooms with only one toilet is considered a house! Alleyways in the camp are often only a metre wide.

         We are doing our best to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in vulnerable communities and to protect those most at risk of infection. We all know that COVID-19 is a global pandemic and it is affecting all people without any exception; we cannot forget the people who have nothing and who need support.

         – Dr Olfat Mahmoud, Director of the Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organization

The Coronavirus poses a real threat to the lives of 40,000 Palestinian and Syrian refugees living in the Bourj el Barajneh refugee camp, but the Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organization (PWHO) is taking action to help stop the spread of the virus.

At each of the twelve entrances to the camp, PWHO volunteers and staff are taking the temperatures of refugees who are entering and exiting the camp. This will help prevent the Coronavirus from entering the crowded refugee camp.

To help families defend themselves against the virus, PWHO volunteers are distributing sanitation kits that include medical gloves, soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant. In a camp where there is a lack of running water and sewerage, these sanitation kits can help families reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

And by educating families on measures they can take to stop the spread of the virus, and by distributing informational material within the camp, the PWHO is raising the awareness of the refugee community about the risk of contagion.

Your solidarity can support refugees in Lebanon, and other vulnerable communities around the world, respond to the COVID-19 health and economic crisis.

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