Fuel shortage throws Lebanon’s hospitals in crisis

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Lebanon’s hospitals and doctors warned on Friday of a new crisis as a result of a fuel shortage that threatened the lives of patients in need of oxygen and life-saving equipment.

“Most hospitals across the country are running out of fuel and some have only supplies left to last them a few days maximum,’’ Suleiman Haroun, head of the private Syndicate of Hospitals, said.

He stressed that some of the small hospitals have already stopped receiving any new patients.

“We in the health sector are struggling to get fuel to run our generators for almost 20 hours, but we are working with the concerned authorities to secure the amount of fuel in order for our health sector to remain secure and avoid a catastrophe,’’ Haroun added.

Haroun said Lebanon was experiencing its worst economic crisis since its 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

The state-run electricity provider has been severely cutting power supplies in the past few weeks, prompting people, businesses, and hospitals to rely on private generators.

The head of the Lebanese doctor’s syndicate, Charaf Abu Charaf, told DPA that hospitals are already refusing to accept patients who can be treated at home.

“Only very serious conditions are being accepted,” he told DPA, adding that the deteriorating situation in the health sector has pushed some 1,200 doctors to leave the country and look for jobs abroad.

The lack of foreign currency had made it impossible for the state to secure the fuel and other commodities needed for the country.

The Lebanese pound, which has lost more than 90 percent of its value since 2019, hit an all-time low last week when it traded at around 23,500 to the dollar on the black market.

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had also warned that the severe power cuts and Lebanon’s economic woes could lead to the stoppage of water pumping across the country in the next four to six weeks.

“More than four million people, including one million refugees, are at immediate risk of losing access to safe water in Lebanon,’’ UNICEF said in a statement.

“A loss of access to the public water supply could force households to make extremely difficult decisions regarding their basic water, sanitation and hygiene needs,’’ said Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF’s representative in Lebanon.

The statement added that more than 71 percent of people fell within the “highly critical’’ and “critical’’ levels of vulnerability.

“The water sector is being squeezed to destruction by the current economic crisis in Lebanon, unable to function due to the dollarised maintenance costs, water loss caused by non-revenue water, the parallel collapse of the power grid, and the threat of rising fuel costs,’’ said Mokuo.

Lebanon has home some 1 million Syrian refugees who had escaped the war-torn country since 2011.

Syria’s crisis started with peaceful pro-democracy protests in March 2011.

It soon evolved into a full-blown conflict, drawing in foreign fighters and powers.