Six months on from the Beirut blast, the pandemic is pushing Lebanon’s healthcare system, and its economy, to breaking point. SAT-7’s Beirut team have one message for their fellow Lebanese they deal with multiple overlapping crises: no matter their suffering, they are not alone, and God has not forgotten them.
“It is the hardest thing to turn away a patient because there is no room in your hospital,” says Professor Pierre Yared, General Director at Lebanese University Hospital Geitawi. Speaking on SAT-7 ARABIC, Professor Yared gives an inside view on a crisis hitting headlines across the world: hospitals full; oxygen for sale on the black market; people dying at home or in their cars, without access to care.
Professor Yared spoke on You are Not Alone, a programme produced in Beirut that has been supporting Arabic-speakers through the pandemic. In early February, the team raised awareness and reached out to affected viewers in a special episode focused on the healthcare situation in Lebanon.
On the programme, Professor Yared shares that his hospital is at full capacity, with its emergency department being used for some COVID-19 patients and the health department transporting others to hospitals outside Beirut. Speaking directly to viewers, he tries to allay their concerns about seeking treatment. “Call your doctor when you have any symptoms, and continue social distancing. And get the vaccine,” he adds. “Don’t believe the disinformation about the vaccine.”
Watch video report: Beirut explosion – Six months on
The slow arrival of the vaccine, which was not slated to arrive until early this month, is just one element in a crisis underpinned by Lebanon’s financial collapse and the ongoing impact of the 4 August explosion.
“The currency has been devalued by 80 percent. This means we cannot import medical supplies to help with the pandemic. Hospitals were also destroyed in the blast,” says Juliana Sfeir, SAT-7 ACADEMY’s Brand Manager.
On You Are Not Alone, Professor Yared shares that the aftermath of the blast was one of his hardest moments. “All the injured people were naturally not wearing masks, and they were screaming and crying in pain. The most difficult moment was when one was afraid of getting infected with coronavirus, but at the same time had to tend to the injured,” he says.
“God will bring renewal”
This special episode forms part of a continuous flow of support from both SAT-7 ARABIC and SAT-7 KIDS for those struggling due to the pandemic and the impact of the Beirut blast. The channels’ regular live programmes have for the past six months addressed relevant topics, prayed for affected viewers, and helped meet the mental health and education needs of families in lockdown or struggling with trauma.
With Lebanon currently in a 24/7 quarantine due to rising cases, the studio recently closed for one week. “We needed to stop our production because we were at risk of losing our own people to COVID-19,” says SAT-7 Lebanon Executive Director Maroun Bou Rached. Thankfully, the studios have been able to reopen and continue broadcasting shows including You Are Not Alone, which helps people to feel a sense of solidarity and hope.
“Through our programmes, we raised awareness of the struggles of families in Beirut following the blast, and we have connected viewers with the appropriate help,” Sfeir says. “SAT-7 continues to reach as many people as possible with the message that God has not forgotten us. We are in His hands. And He will bring renewal and a new dawn to our country.”