11 February, New York – 200,000 disposable masks donated by the Finance Center for South-South Cooperation (FCSSC) to Beirut City, Lebanon, with the coordination and facilitation efforts of the UNOSSC Cities Project team and UNDP Lebanon’s local coordination and oversight support, had arrived in its destination and been distributed to hospitals, health centers, and other sectors in need since 18 January. Mayor Mr. Jamal Itani expressed that Beirut had been “comforted, encouraged, and humbled by the outpouring generosity” from FCSSC.
According to the Beirut Municipality Council, Lebanon’s health care system, already been crippled by the country’s economic collapse, was further impaired by the port explosion in August 2020 which torn down several hospitals.
Five months on from the blast, the country’s COVID-19 confirmed cases continue to surge, with a record high of daily increase at 6,175 registered on 16 January; on 8 February, the total number of confirmed cases in this country reached 319,917, according to the lasted data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO).
As a result, hospitals in Beirut have been experiencing a critical shortage of staff, medical supplies, and financial resources. “With their COVID-19 wards and ICUs full, many hospitals had to keep critical patients in emergency rooms, which are themselves filling quickly. People have been at the hospital’s doorsteps waiting to be admitted and shortages of breathing equipment”, introduced Mrs. Yusra Sidani Balaa, Beirut Municipality Council Member, the designated local focal point to coordinate the distribution with the Cities Project team for the shipment, handover, and distribution of masks.
Thus, hospitals and health centers were prioritized in the masks distribution plan and allocated with approximately 60 per cent of the masks. Security personnel at the Municipality and the fire brigade taking care of citizens’ welfare during the lockdown, as well as relevant non-governmental organizations, received masks as well.
Beirut has been in the network of Cities Project since 2018. In April 2020, Beirut responded with concrete demands to an online survey on COVID-19 needs and challenges circulated by Cities Project among its city partners. Cities Project team reached out to partners, including FCSSC, to mobilize donations after confirming the specific needs of the city soon after the port blast.
“During the time of great uncertainty, we have been comforted, encouraged, and humbled by the outpouring generosity and support from you. Thank you for helping us meet the challenges of this moment, so we could provide our hospitals and health care units with some of the needed personal protective equipment (PPE) at a time when hospitals across the country are running low on them due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated the Major of Beirut, Mr. Jamal Itani, in a letter of appreciation thanking FCSSC’s help extended “at a time when we all need to stand together”.
Dr. Zhong Wu, Director-General, FCSSC, shared that their decision to collaborate with the UNOSSC and donate masks was based on the observation of the country’s deteriorated situation of the pandemic in the second half of the year. “Lebanon’s situation turned even severer recently. Since 14 January, the country has entered a state of emergency and implemented a complete lockdown. We hope these masks were delivered to the city when most needed, like a present of firewood on a cold day.”
By the end of December 2020, FCSSC had donated 650,000 masks to the 15 Member States of West African Health Organization (WAHO), Banjul City, and Beirut City to support local COVID-19 responses. In particular, the donation of 250,000 masks to WAHO was funded by cryptocurrencies raised by FCSSC via digital platform Bithelp and was the first time FCSSC utilized blockchain technology for emergency aid.
The Cities Project team mobilized and facilitated the deployment of over one million masks, benefiting 22 countries, in the past year. In 2021, the Cities Project team will continue to foster South-South mutual support through, among others, mobilizing and coordinating donations in response to emerging demands/needs expressed by city partners from the global South.
FCSSC promotes cooperation among governments in developing countries, private enterprises and multilateral organizations. It has headquarters in Hong Kong SAR, China, and provides comprehensive solution plans for South-South cooperation projects