Lebanon is asking citizens living abroad to contribute to its struggling healthcare sector as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
Lebanon’s embassies are urging the diaspora to secure high-flow oxygen machines for hospitals and oxygen concentrators for home care, Caretaker Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe told The National on Sunday.
Hospitals have been struggling to secure enough ventilators for a rising number of patients in need of admission.
Health professionals fear a repeat of the Italian crisis, as shortages in foreign currency reserves have delayed imports of life-saving medical equipment.
“Our families in Lebanon are facing an urgent crisis due to the rise in coronavirus infections, which is preventing hospitals and medical centres from providing on-site health services,” the Lebanese embassy in Baghdad said.
It appealed to Lebanese to work with it to send items home.
Mr Wehbe said Lebanese expatriates seemed to be quickly heeding the call.
So far, members of the diaspora in France, Spain, the US and Brazil have pledged support for the initiative.
The donated medical equipment will be distributed to hospitals and local authorities under the supervision of the Health Ministry and in co-operation with the Red Cross, Mr Wehbe said.
Municipalities, dispensaries, schools and medical clinics will ensure the oxygen concentrators for home care are used to help stabilise patients who are in critical condition before being transferred to hospital.
Lebanon has so far recorded more than 3000 coronavirus-related deaths.
The rising death toll prompted authorities to reinstate a full lockdown since January 14 after having allowed restaurants and nightclubs to reopen during the Christmas and New Year holiday to support struggling businesses.
The country is facing its worst economic and financial crisis since the 1990 end of the civil war.
The crisis has been exacerbated by a massive explosion that shook Beirut in August, killing more than 200 people and causing billions of dollars of damage at the port and across the capital.
Authorities hope the lockdown will help to contain rising infections and ease the burden on the health sector, pending the arrival of 2.1 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over five weeks starting in mid-February.
Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hasan said Lebanon aimed to vaccinate between 70 and 80 per cent of its population by the end of 2021, starting with high-risk healthcare workers, elderly citizens and people with medical conditions.
On Saturday, Mr Hasan said Lebanon also received official confirmation from Covax for the delivery of the first batch of AstraZeneca vaccine during the last week of February.
Covax is a platform co-ordinated by the World Health Organisation in partnership with the Gavi Vaccine Alliance and the Centre for Epidemics Preparedness Innovations.