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HRW urges Lebanon authorities not to neglect healthcare workers’ safety

December 11, 2020 at 1:31 am

Medical personnel, treating patients suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a hospital in the Lebanese capital Beirut on 7 April 2020 [JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged on Thursday the Lebanese government not to “neglect” the safety of health sector workers fighting on the frontlines against the coronavirus pandemic, as cases rise threatening to overwhelm the healthcare system.

The rights watchdog quoted Lebanese researcher Aya Majzoub in a statement: “Healthcare workers are the backbone of the country as COVID-19 cases rage across Lebanon, but the government has shown a callous disregard for their health and safety.” Majzoub added: “If the government wants the health system to withstand this crisis, it should pay hospitals their dues and ensure that healthcare workers have the protection and support they deserve.”

According to the statement, the Lebanese government institutions, including the Health Ministry, National Social Security Fund and security agencies owe private and public hospitals large sums of money.

The statement warned that Lebanese currency has already lost about 80 per cent of its value this year, while inflation has exceeded 100 per cent.

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CEO of Rafik Hariri University Hospital Dr Firass Abiad slammed the government’s failure to meet its financial obligations.

“We have some money from internationals like the United Nations refugee agency and the International Committee for the Red Cross. If not for those, we would be in trouble,” Abiad explained.

The Lebanese state owes the Rafik Hariri University Hospital around 20 billion Lebanese pounds ($13.3 million at the official exchange rate and around $2.5 million at the unofficial market rate) in unpaid bills for 2020.

As many as 142,187 people have been infected with the coronavirus in Lebanon, while the death toll has reached 1,170.

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