Helping refugees in Lebanon protect themselves from COVID-19

Hala, an MSF nurse, visits with Maryam, a 90-year-old Syrian refugee living in Burj al-Barajneh camp in Beirut, and checks her blood pressure. The team is reaching out to the elderly and those most vulnerable to COVID-19 to help the community practice “shielding” individuals from infection.
Lebanon 2020 © Diego Ibarra Sánchez
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Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are working with families living in Burj Al-Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The camp was originally established in 1949 to shelter displaced Palestinians and has grown into a densely crowded settlement to accommodate new waves of refugees, including people uprooted by the war in Syria. MSF teams are reaching out to people at greatest risk from COVID-19—such as the elderly and those with chronic diseases. These teams are training families how to practice “shielding,” which involves designating and maintaining safe zones in their home or neighborhood to provide extra protection to vulnerable individuals. 

MSF COVID-19 Response in Lebanon
Lebanon 2020 © Diego Ibarra Sánchez

MSF health promoter Dayana Tabbarah and nurse Hala Hussein hit the streets of Burj al-Barajneh camp in Beirut to help the community protect themselves against the threat of COVID-19. 

 

MSF COVID-19 Response in Lebanon
Lebanon 2020 © Diego Ibarra Sánchez

MSF nurse Hala Hussein was born and raised in Burj al-Barajneh camp. She has been working with MSF for three years. “I am proud to work for my people and to help my own community,” she says.  She visits the homes of patients for routine visits during the pandemic. 

 

MSF COVID-19 Response in Lebanon
Lebanon 2020 © Diego Ibarra Sánchez

When Aida’s husband first heard of the shielding approach, he thought his family should participate. “Why wouldn’t we protect ourselves if we are given the opportunity to do it? Whatever measures are required, I’ll do it,” he said. He is concerned about his wife’s health. “I love her and want to protect her as much as I can.” 

 

MSF COVID-19 Response in Lebanon
Lebanon 2020 © Diego Ibarra Sánchez

Aida has asthma, hypertension, and diabetes—putting her at greater risk if she contracts COVID-19. She lives with her husband and daughter, who are applying additional protection measures like handwashing, safe distancing, and cleaning surfaces. 

 

MSF COVID-19 Response in Lebanon
Lebanon 2020 © Diego Ibarra Sánchez

MSF health promoter Dayana Tabbarah encourages relatives to stay in contact with the shielded person while maintaining a safe physical distance. 

 

MSF COVID-19 Response in Lebanon
Lebanon 2020 © Diego Ibarra Sánchez

When families first learn about shielding, they worry about feeling lonely and isolated from their families. Maryam, a 90-year-old Syrian woman, says she feels safe in the area her family has chosen in their small home in Burj al-Barajneh camp. “I haven’t been out since the pandemic started,” Maryam told the MSF team. “Your visit brings me joy.”