Update from Beirut: COVID-19 and the aftermath of the explosion – Dr. Olfat Mahmoud

Aug 6, 2020


Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA has received an update from Dr. Olfat Mahmoud in Lebanon. Dr. Mahmoud recalls situation after the explosion and talks about the impact of for refugees inside the Bourj el Barajneh camp, particularly in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

The organisation Olfat founded, the Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organization (PWHO), has been taking action to protect refugee communities at risk from the Coronavirus. Now they need to continue their work in an even more challenging setting.

How you can help: click here to go to the list of Australian NGOs responding to the Beirut explosion


Bourj el Barajneh camp is home to 40,000 refugees living in less than a one square kilometre. As of 6 August, there are 8 confirmed cases of COVID-19 inside the camp. The positive cases are isolating but still inside the camp where physical distancing measures are near impossible.

Refugees inside Bourj el Barajneh cannot access the general hospital in Beirut; they must attend health facilities funded by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Even if they were able to access the general hospital, they would be unable to do so as the hospitals in Beirut are struggling to cope with demand following the explosion earlier this week.

Everyone in the camp is fearful of contracting COVID-19. In the aftermath of the explosion, PWHO continue their work distributing face masks to women and families in the camp to prevent the spread.

The camp also faces food and water shortages due to disruption in transportation and supply. This adds further stress as the situation is even more unpredictable and uncertain.

Dr Olfat Mahmoud talks about the moment the explosion was felt:

“We are fine but we were terrified to death. I thought it was an earthquake because the house was moving and it felt as if the building was falling down. The whole area of Beirut felt the same as I felt. There has been massive destruction – more than 5000 people are wounded, 137 were killed, and more than 100 people are still missing. Thousands of people have been displaced. We were advised to leave Beirut if we can to avoid the poisonous gases. However, most people cannot afford to leave. It is a real catastrophe!”

Read more about the situation facing refugees inside Bourj el Barajneh from Dr. Mahmoud’s COVID-19 Crisis Update in June 2020





If you want to support APHEDA’s partner in Lebanon, you can donate to the Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organisation (PWHO). Your support to PWHO will go towards assisting Palestinians in the refugee camps only; not to work which directly assists the broader Beirut community. DONATE TO PWHO


If you want to make a tax-deductible donation to an Australian NGO that is responding to the Beirut explosion, please visit the ACFID Beirut Explosion Emergency Appeals page. The organisations listed are all members of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) and the appeals have been checked and meed ACFID’s Code of Conduct requirements for emergency appeals.

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