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Lebanon: Update on MSF's COVID-19 response

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has launched activities in Lebanon to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, aiming at increasing access to healthcare for vulnerable communities. MSF intends to keep most of its regular medical programs running, while strengthening infection prevention and control measures across its activities.

“Building on our experience in emergency interventions and epidemics responses, we started implementing triage and pre-triage in all our clinics for the protection of patients and staff,” says Amaury Gregoire, MSF’s Head of Mission in Lebanon. “The communities we serve are at higher risk of being affected because of the crowded settings they live in, the weaker general health status and the barriers many face in accessing health care in Lebanon.”

MSF’s COVID-19 response covers three areas of intervention: adapting activities in our own facilities, supporting governmental hospitals, and raising awareness among vulnerable communities.

Increasing the nation-wide bed capacity

“We are concerned that the number of beds currently available in the Bekaa Valley may not be enough if the outbreak takes hold,” says Gregoire. “We are preparing our teams to receive people with COVID-19 in our facilities too, in response to the emerging needs of the Lebanese population as well as the Syrian and Palestinian refugees or anyone else in the Valley.”

  • In the town of Zahle MSF runs a paediatric ward which is equipped with a paediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Our teams are supporting hospital staff by organising the triage, screening, testing and care of children. The hospital is a COVID-19 referral hospital, and measures are also in place to ensure that treatment for other illnesses continues.
  • In the town Bar Elias, MSF’s hospital will be ready to host COVID-19 patients too. The facility will have a 63-bed capacity, an intensive care unit (ICU), and more than 200 trained staff members on duty. The hospital usually handles elective surgeries and wound-care activities, however MSF has temporarily suspended elective surgeries to better prepare for a potential influx of COVID-19 patients. Wound care activities are still running in a new area.  

Supporting government hospitals and isolation sites

MSF has been in contact with several governmental hospitals to support them with logistic services and medical supplies, and increase their medical capacities through staff training.

  • In Zahle, central Bekaa, MSF has set up a COVID-19 emergency room in the Elias Hraoui Governmental Hospital. It will be used for pre-triage and triage of adult patients, and includes a waiting area and a testing area.
  • In Saida, South Lebanon, MSF helped restore biomedical equipment in Saida Governmental Hospital and provided technical and logistic support to the Al Hamshari Hospital, the central Palestinian Red Crescent Society Hospital in Lebanon. In both facilities, MSF conducted training sessions for staff on infection prevention and control (IPC) measures.
  • MSF deployed a medical team to UNRWA’s Siblin training centre, which will be turned into an isolation site. MSF will support in the management of the facility. Our team also trained UNRWA staff on IPC and biosafety and will support them to maintain these standards..

Building community engagement and awareness  

MSF teams have conducted a series of intensive health awareness sessions about COVID-19, targeting patients as well as vulnerable communities.

  • Since early March, MSF teams (including through volunteers and other local actors) have reached tens of thousands of households in different areas in Lebanon in the North (Tripoli and Akkar), the south (Ain al Helweh camp), southern Beirut (Shatila and Burj el Barajneh camps) as well as the Bekaa region. MSF teams have distributed soap bars and water tanks. 
  • In Dora, a northern suburb of Beirut, MSF has created a medical helpline in partnership with a local organisation called Anti-Racism Movement, in order to provide medical support and assistance to the migrant communities and especially women who are domestic workers during the lockdown. The phone consultations cover urgent and acute medical conditions, counselling and mental health support, and orientation and referral to other health services if needed.

 

ENDS

MSF is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare in almost 70 countries around the world. MSF offers assistance to people based on need and irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.

MSF began working in Lebanon in 1976 in response to the civil war, sending medical teams to the south of the country and Beirut. This was MSF’s first mission in a warzone.

Today, MSF is providing free medical care in various locations in Lebanon.

About MSF UK

This is the press room for MSF UK - the UK office of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.

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