Supporting Lebanon after the deadly explosion at Beirut Port

On Tuesday 4th August a devastating explosion at Beirut Port left over 300,000 homeless, 6,500 injured, 190 tragically dead and scores missing.   Three days later, a group of UK Emergency Medical Team members travelled to Beirut to complete an initial assessment of the situation. 

The assessment period revealed that highly skilled medical staff were already available in-country and  there was no shortage of Human Resources; but there was an urgent need for supplies, equipment and repairing the structural damage to health facilities.

The assessment also found that Lebanon’s healthcare system has been eroded over years through continual shocks. The last year of turmoil and economic crisis has led to many medical staff being laid off, and damage to social cohesion.  The addition of COVID-19 has now exacerbated the increasingly volatile situation in Lebanon and further weakened the health care system.

Following a formal request to the UK EMT from WHO Lebanon to assist with the Coronavirus outbreak; we deployed a team of specialists in Intensive Care (ICU), Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Logistics and Medical and Response coordination.

The team has been supporting three key hospitals in the City Sidon (Saida) and in Baabda, and Daher El Bachek government hospitals in Beirut. UK EMT activities in all three Hospitals have been focused around rapid COVID-19 preparedness and response specifically in:

Case Management:

The team have helped to establish new admission criteria in the hospitals and deliver specialist ICU training in non-invasive ventilation and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure).

Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC):

The team conducted a mini simulation training exercise at Saida Hospital to test patient flow and how non COVID-19 patients are kept separate from COVID-19 positive patients.

Training in general awareness about COVID-19 and the correct use of PPE is taking place. We are also delivering a series of technical webinars at Saida and Baabda Hospitals, enabling senior clinical staff to discuss specific cases and learn from other outbreaks including SARS.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH):

Assessments at all three Hospitals have included: water quality, PPE, handwashing points and dead body management.   The team have developed a COVID-19 WASH package containing comprehensive information on WASH requirements for an effective COVID-19 response and shared with Saida and Baabda Hospitals, as well as with the Polish Emergency Medical Team working in Tripoli.

Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE):

Our RCCE specialist has been developing a plan to engage different stakeholders from specific communities in how they can fight COVID-19, with a particular focus on improving relations between Saida Hospital and the wider community.   On September 29th the UK EMT in partnership with Saida Hospital, UNICEF and the Union of NGOs in Saida are launching a public awareness campaign: ‘Live Your Life while Fighting Coronavirus’ to raise awareness of the virus and to help reduce the stigmatisation of those infected by COVID-19 across Saida Province, including refugees from Ein El Hilweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.

UK EMT response in Beirut
UK-Med Assessment Team visit to Geitaoui Hospital, Beirut. (Ritzau-Reid August 2020)
EMT Response in Beirut
ICU Nurse, Rowena Williams with ICU lead at Saida Hospital, Saida. (Walton August 2020)
Harriet Walton IPC nurse delivering PPE training.  (Williams August 2020)
Harriet Walton IPC nurse delivering PPE training. (Williams August 2020)

The team have built excellent relationships with hospital staff, other NGO’s and partners in Beirut. They are closely monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases in the city and adapting their support as needed.  We’ll bring you more updates from the field as they come in.

ICU Nurse Rowena Williams presenting at Baabda Hospital, Beirut (UK-EMT Team August 2020)

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