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International organizations have abandoned Palestinian refugees in Lebanon amid pandemic: Minister

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Lebanese soldiers patrol in the market of the Palestinian refugee camp of Sabra, south of Beirut, March 22, 2020. (File photo by AFP)

Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hasan has censured international organizations for their alleged procrastination in taking effective measures in combating the COVID-19 pandemic among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

The Lebanese minister made the remarks in an interview with Lebanon's Arabic-language al-Manar television network on Monday, warning that the densely-populated refugee camps could turn into a "time bomb" if the responsible international organizations fail to set a field plan to curb the contagious disease in these camps.

“We at the Ministry of Health treat any refugee or displaced person the same way we treat Lebanese citizens. It is a moral, humanitarian and medical duty,” Hasan said.

“But this does not exempt the international organizations from their duties.”

The Lebanese minister also noted that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) had not yet given any humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon or to Palestinian refugees coming from Syria.

Moreover, UNRWA has not yet developed any relief plan, Hasan added, saying that statements were all that have been offered by the agency to Beirut.

According to the UN agency, more than 470,000 Palestinian refugees are registered with UNRWA in the Arab country, with 180,000 of them estimated for planning purposes to be residing in the country. 

About 45 percent of these refugees live in Lebanon's 12 refugee camps, whose conditions are dire and characterized by overcrowding. Furthermore, the years-long militancy in Syria has pushed tens of thousands of Syria-based Palestinian refugees to go to Lebanon, which suffers from a troubled economy.

The COVID-19 disease, caused by a new coronavirus, was transmitted from wildlife to people in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. It has affected 210 countries and territories across the globe and has so far infected more than 2,443,000 people and killed over 167,925.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a global pandemic.

Official figures by Lebanon's Health Ministry shows that as of Monday, 677 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 21 others have died in the Arab country.

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