EMERGENCY SENIOR RELIEF FOR BEIRUT
On August 4th?an explosion in Beirut killed over 150 people and injured nearly 5000. The number of displaced is said to be over 300,000. As the authorities scramble to treat the wounded, search for survivors, and assess the full extent of the damage, an estimate suggests the loss to be in the range of 3 to 5 billion USD.
Our teams in Beirut are working around the clock to provide support to seniors throughout the area. The explosion has exacerbated the exceptional economic crisis. Coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become a full humanitarian crisis.
Of urgent need:
Primary health care centers?have always been at the center of the health response in Lebanon. They are crucial to address the current needs, to decrease hospitals’ load and to ensure the continuity of care. Dozens of them were damaged by the explosion and need urgent support. A group of engineer volunteers will draft an action plan to assess the damages, including cost implications, and are ready to share it with us for implementation.
Mobile medical units?are always used by the health sector as a last resort as the sector is continuously investing in strengthening the health system to ensure sustainability and enhance resilience. In the current situation, a mobile clinic is needed for a temporary period to provide instant relief and to guide the people through the existing and functional health care centers.
Mental health?services are a crucial part of the current response. The mental health component needs to be strengthened in all primary health care centers, especially in the affected areas or where people are relocated. Human resources are needed in the centers and organizations are requested to mobilize their staff in coordination with the sector, including the national mental health task force.
Quarantine warehouse?has suffered severe damage. This is the national warehouse where all vaccines, cold chains and acute and chronic disease medications are stored. Some of the supplies are already moved to other locations however, the warehouse needs solid renovation. The Lebanese Ministry of Public Health, the World Health Organization and UNICEF are assessing the situation and will share a needs assessment with organizations that are ready to step in and support.
Rapid Needs Assessment
A Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) was conducted by HelpAge International in June 2020.
The RNA highlights long term healthcare amongst priorities for recovery.
Hayat survived the Beirut explosion.
Hayat Taleb is a sixty-year-old Lebanese woman who lives in Karantina with little access to health care and poor living conditions. She recalls what happened to her when the explosion happened in the port of Beirut.
“All I can remember about six o’clock in the evening on August 4th is that I was cleaning on the balcony. I started to hear crackers but continued my work. Then the voices started getting louder. I can’t remember what happened next. I opened my eyes and found myself lying on the floor of my damaged house. My eyes and head were bleeding, but my only thought was to check on my children. I found them injured as well and together we rushed to the nearest hospital to seek medical help."
“I don’t know what happened, even the hospital was destroyed. After a long night, our wounds were bandaged, but we could not return home, and were overwhelmed by fear. Now, more than a week after the disaster, all I want is to feel safe. I only want to find safety and peace in Lebanon."
“Life is difficult in Lebanon, even for younger people who are full of vitality and energy, so how about it for older people like us? It is impossible for us to find a job at this age, and in return there is a huge gap in services available for old age.”
Collected by?Amel Association?in Beirut.
Amal's Story of Survival
"My family and I live in a neighborhood in Karantina. On that day, I was sitting with my sister and my mother when we saw the smoke starting to rise from the port area. At first we thought it was just a fire and went on with our conversations but as soon as the fireworks began to explode, we realised that we were in danger.
Until now, I have no clue what happened and how I broke my arm. All I remember is trying to escape with my mum and sister. I woke up in our neighbour's car with blood on my face and body. My children and I walked in search of a hospital, with many other wounded people around us, as if we were emerging from a bloody war.
Since that day, I wake up every morning thinking that what happened is nothing but a nightmare. I cannot believe it. My house is destroyed. And being an older woman in Lebanon, I barely have access to healthcare and have very few resources. I cannot afford to buy my medicines. All I need is my right to healthcare and to feel safe and secure."
Collected by?Amel Association?in Beirut.
HelpAge Canada is currently providing emergency COVID-19 services to Syrian and Lebanese seniors (60+) and adults (40+) with chronic medical conditions.?
Below are the initiatives associated with our current program.
Lebanon hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees per capita, with a Government estimate of 1.5 million Syrian refugees?(including 950,3341 registered as refugees) in a country of about 6 million inhabitants. It also hosts an additional 18,500 refugees from Ethiopia, Iraq,?Sudan?and other countries, as well as more than 200,000 Palestinian refugees under UNRWA’s mandate. The presence of such a large refugee population, in a small country struggling to maintain its own delicate demographic balance and regain its pre-crisis economic growth, is increasingly affecting the protection space and?putting?pressure on infrastructure, services and the environment.?
The most recent political turmoil in Lebanon is an indication of the frustration people are experiencing due to poverty, poor access to services, availability issues and high cost. This?was followed by an economic crisis?affecting access and provision of services?especially for older people who do not have any social security or health insurance and?are?mainly supported by their family members.??
The?pandemic has exacerbated the already devastating economic crisis, exposing the inadequacies of Lebanon’s?social protection system, and putting burden on the health system. The pandemic-related lockdown measures have compounded the poverty and economic hardship in addition to movement restrictions leaving vulnerable populations unable to afford?basic necessities?and access services.?
Impact on older people??
HelpAge undertook a multi-sector?Rapid Needs Assessment?(RNA) on older people in COVID-19? in?June? 2020 to better understand the needs of older people during this situation and gaps that should be addressed in humanitarian intervention based on reliable disaggregated data.??
As Lebanon faces a harsh financial crisis crippling the?State’s ability to face health crises, the Lebanese people?are? increasingly?anxious about the novel coronavirus.?
The?Lebanese?government has announced a far-reaching travel ban but there are doubts the country can cope with a full outbreak due to an unprecedented economic crisis that has weakened its?economy and basic service provision such as?the?health system.?The number of confirmed cases?is?continuing?to increase which?adds?the burden on the economic situation and?lead to further breakdown of?access to basic?services and deterioration of the general situation.?
In addition to limited access to food and basic needs, older people?are?facing challenges in?their awareness around?the available health services and accessing it.?Moreover, there is a big concern related to the?limited capacity of the health system and the?preparedness of the service providers to respond properly to the COVID-19 crisis.??
HelpAge’s Work?in Lebanon??
HelpAge’s key focus?in Lebanon?is on the?inclusion of older people in humanitarian response, NCDs?specifically?targeting older people with?hypertension?and?diabetes?and psycho-social support?interventions. This body of work has been supported by DEC through Age?International, OCHA, World Diabetes?Foundation and BMZ. HelpAge aims?also?to?promote protection and access to services for people with specific needs (PwSN) namely displaced Syrian and Lebanese older men and women, and adults with physical disabilities. This was achieved?in?Akkar?District, North Lebanon?through capacity building of humanitarian actors, care providers and community volunteers on protection mainstreaming for older people and?PwSN, making?two?existing centers age and disability friendly community safe spaces, psycho-social and peer support activities, awareness raising, dissemination of information related to health and protection, provision of assistive devices, physiotherapy sessions, and home-based medical services to older displaced Syrian?people?and Lebanese host community?members?with restricted mobility and to adults with physical disabilities.??
At present HelpAge is implementing a project that started in 2016, in collaboration with?Amel?Association International, Imam Sadr Foundation,?Makassed?Foundation and the Young Men Christian?Association?(YMCA)?Lebanon, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the German Relief Coalition.?It was co-funded by the World Diabetes Foundation for two years.??
The project’s?main objective is to alleviate the suffering of chronically ill Syrian refugees and host community members,?as well as to reduce morbidity rates of type II diabetes and hypertension. Project activities revolve around early?detection and management of hypertension and diabetes,?provision of psycho-social support for older Syrian refugees and host community?members, and capacity building of healthcare providers on various topics related to older people and NCDs.?The project?is being?implemented in close coordination with the Ministry of Public Health,?MOSA the?relevant?UN clusters?and?in line with WHO guidelines.?
Integrating Covid-19 Activities?
The current project activities are continuing?and?have been?tailored?in response to the emerging COVID-19 crisis.?Currently the activities include:?
- Health education?is taking place?in one-to-one form?to older people visiting the PHCs?to?avoid group gatherings?and?raise awareness on COVID-19?and?the?correct hygiene practices?and precautions to be taken?using?MoPH?and WHO IEC material.?
- Distribution of sample hygiene kits to older people as part of the awareness raising activities.?
- HelpAge?and partners’?staff are?participating in?meetings held by the different working groups to stay updated on?the?COVID-19 situation in Lebanon,?related recommendations?and to work on a coordinated response.?
- HelpAge?and partners’?staff have?attended?trainings implemented by WHO?and?the?Lebanese Red Cross?on COVID-19 so that they?are?able to?implement?preventive measures?and disseminate?information on the virus.?
HelpAge?will?build on the existing activities and use the available structure and platforms to integrate the interventions focusing on COVID-19 with the aim to reach out to?the?older Syrian and Lebanese populations?in target areas. These proposed activities will be implemented in close coordination with the Ministry of Public health?(MoPH),?Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA),?health and protection clusters and other key players actively working on the COVID-19?response. The major focus will be on prevention through information sharing, guidance on steps needed if one has symptoms, who to contact if one suspects he/she has symptoms, information sharing on available services in the target areas,?and through the provision of hygiene kits.??In this regard, the following activities are proposed:?
Key activities?at community and health centre levels:?
- Capacity building of health centers’ staff on COVID-19?
- Awareness raising sessions on preventive measures?for older people visiting the centers and?using social media platforms?and dissemination of Age-Friendly educational material on COVID-19??
- Counselling sessions?by a psychologist??
- Distribution of PPEs material??
- Screening of older women and men for COVID-19?symptoms?in health centers??
- Provision of hygiene kits to screened older women and men??
- Service mapping and referral to other related services??
- Advocacy on issues of older people?
Project Location and Target Communities?
The project will target older Syrian refugees and vulnerable host community?(40+ years old?with underlying medical conditions and 60+ years old with/without other medical conditions)?through?Wadi Khaled Primary Healthcare Center?(PHC)?in?Akkar,?North?Lebanon.???
The target location was?chosen based on findings from the?Rapid Needs Assessment?conducted by HelpAge?to meet the identified needs of the most vulnerable populations in?Akkar?who showed reduced access to healthcare services.??
Wadi Khaled is one of the most impoverished and politically marginalized areas of Lebanon. Most of its residents did not receive full citizenship rights for more than four decades.?Wadi Khaled was?among the first Lebanese regions Syrian refugees moved to at the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, given its proximity to some of the early conflict hotspots such as Homs. The Syrian crisis has had a huge toll on the area’s economy, after the northern border between Lebanon and Syria was closed and it led to a decrease in trade on which the area’s economy relied. That was accompanied by the decrease in the number of employment opportunities, which made life hard for the people in Wadi Khaled, for both Lebanese and Syrians.?
In Wadi Khaled today, the number of refugee families is significantly higher than at the onset of the war. Many still preserve perfectly good relationships with their Lebanese neighbours, due to the region’s strong cross-border commercial links and many mixed marriages.?Based on the Health Information System and beneficiaries’ database of Wadi Khaled Primary Healthcare Centre,?a total of 46,150 people reside in the centre’s catchment area?(Al?Hysheh, Al Rama,?Mashta?Hassan,?Mashta?Hammoud, Al?Moqaibleh,?Rajm?Issa, and?Rajm?Hussein),?out?of which 10% are older people with Syrian refugees constituting around 43% of the total population.??
In the COVID-19 context, the State is leading the health emergency response and therefore the project will be implemented with?their and?other relevant stakeholder’s support.?Makassed?Association?will be key partner for?field-based?implementation with technical support from HelpAge and?MoPH.??
Makassed?has 4 Primary healthcare centers?and 3 MMUs which are working in Beirut, Mount Lebanon and North?and?has been present in Wadi Khaled /?Akkar?since 2003; they have been providing health and protection services in collaboration with local municipalities in 5 communities, 1 PHC and 1 medical mobile unit.?Makassed?currently implements a reproductive health project in Wadi Khaled PHC and local communities. The?project will build on the existing?services?and on the relationships that?Makassed?has built with PHC staff, local?health authorities and communities. The existing structures will be used?in order to?implement this project and some staff will contribute to awareness raising at community level.?
HelpAge has been working in partnership with?Makassed?since 2016. They have implemented multiple health and protection projects in different areas across Lebanon. In the past year, they worked together?to support older people and persons with specific needs in?Akkar?and currently they are implementing a health project focusing on non-communicable diseases for older people in Beirut area.??
HelpAge will work in close coordination with the Ministries of Public Health and Social?Affairs?and?their designates to?collaborate in the?implementation?of capacity building trainings on COVID-19 and in the development of age-friendly educational material?as well as other relevant activities.?HelpAge?will also work closely with the health and protection clusters and WHO to ensure an informed and coordinated response.?