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Lebanon: Dbayeh refugee camp faces coronavirus threat amid UNRWA absence

March 21, 2020 at 11:02 am

A boy sits near the sacks of flours during a food aid distribution by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) on 15 January, 2018 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

Dbayeh refugee camp (east Beirut) is currently witnessing systematic sterilisation campaigns supervised by the civil committee in the camp, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus amid an absence of follow-ups conducted by the Lebanese authorities and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The Dbayeh refugee camp is located in the east of Beirut and was established in 1956 on endowment land belonging to the Lebanese Maronite Order.

The official of the civil committee of the camp, Wissam Kassis, stressed on: “The residents’ eagerness and awareness regarding the prevention of the virus.”

“The camp is almost empty of passers-by. Shops and establishments have been closed, and everyone is committed to home quarantine,” explained Kassis in an interview with Quds Press.

PHOTO ESSAY: Life as a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon

He added: “We are coordinating with the Palestinian embassy to obtain a sterilisation machine.”

“The Palestinian Civil Defence and Shifaa NGO have also sterilised a number of institutions and homes this week. There is also full cooperation with various societies and institutions in order to complete the sterilisation campaigns and protect our camp and our people from the threat of coronavirus,” indicated Kassis.

Regarding the role of the Municipality of Dbayeh, Kassis confirmed that: “The municipality has not done anything yet regarding the protection of Palestinian refugees,” criticising UNRWA’s failure to “distribute sterilisers, as nothing has yet been received from the organisation.”

The official of the camp’s civil committee called on the residents to: “Stay in their homes during this period until this ordeal is over.”

On Thursday, the Municipality of Dbayeh decontaminated the church of Our Lady of the Cave and St Joseph’s Church, and placed banners on the seafront asking people not to gather or walk around.

In an interview with Quds Press, the executive director of the Shifaa NGO, Majdi Kraiem, informed that a continuous sterilisation campaign has started in Dbayeh refugee camp, in coordination with the civil committee and UNRWA.

As part of its preventive campaign against the coronavirus in the Palestinian camps, Shifaa arrived in Dbayeh refugee camp on Wednesday, and started a sterilisation campaign of commercial stores and institutions.

“The organisation has so far sterilised the young nuns’ Nazareth House, St. George’s Roman Catholic church, in addition to the UNRWA clinic, the Environmental Health Store, the Churches’ Complex for Social Services and the Caritas Centre in the camp, as well as the sterilisation of shops, stores and a number of homes and public places,” added Kraiem.

He continued: “We have also distributed and placed a number of awareness posters relating to the prevention of the virus in stores and on walls.” Kraiem praised the residents’: “Keenness to adhere to the regulations, as the roads were almost empty during the sterilisation campaign.”

READ: Palestine refugees in Lebanon start anti-coronavirus sterilisation drive

UNRWA spokesperson in Lebanon, Hoda Samra, confirmed in a previous statement to Quds Press news agency, that: “No coronavirus infection has been registered among the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.”

The Lebanese Ministry of Health issued its daily report on Thursday, stating that: “The number of laboratory-confirmed coronavirus infection cases has reached 149, including the 16 new cases confirmed on Thursday.”

The Lebanese minister of health, Hamad Hasan, specified that: “Six cases have been confirmed,” demanding “the isolation of a number of areas, namely: Byblos, Kesrouane, and Baabda.” His decision was however rejected by the cabinet, as the government demanded to strictly compel citizens to stay in their homes.