Refugees in Lebanon fear starvation more than coronavirus

By Isaac J. Martin 

Beirut, Apr 28 (efe-epa).- At the Shatila refugee camp located southern Beirut, a divorced young Syrian woman by the name Fadia tries to survive and feed her five children.

But she has it clear; she would return to the war-torn Syria, if she had a shelter. They fear starving to death more than the novel coronavirus.   

There are nearly 1.5 million refugees in Lebanon, according to the United Nations. They are not only the most vulnerable to the health crisis but also the hardest hit by its economic consequences.

 “The economic crisis is what scares us more than corona,” Fadia – a name she came up with to protect her identity – tells Efe at the office of the Basmeh&Zeitooneh NGO, where she collects an aid coupon.

 “If there was a roof on top of my head in Syria I would go back,” she adds. Fadia fled her country along with million of others seeking to escape the civil war that has ravaged Lebanon’s neighbor since 2011.

The administrator of Basmeh&Zeitouneh Shatila HQ, Omar Sayegh, 29, confirms “everyone in the camp relies on daily income” as they do not have a salary.

 At the NGO’s office located in a narrow street within the informal settlement, Sayegh and his team hand the coupon to around 3,500 people one by one.

The NGO also teaches classes at schools to 1,400 children, who are currently unable to physically attend the courses due to the preventive measures.

Instead, they are taking their lessons via WhatsApp videos, Sayegh adds.  

 However, the life at the camp remains practically the same as it was before the virus was detected in Lebanon, since the social distancing rules are difficult to implement.

Shops remain opened and only a few put on protective face masks and gloves.

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