American University of Beirut

Omar Bahlawan: About the team getting the Lebanese expats back home during COVID19

​​​​​Shutting down airports, closing borders, and limiting movements to avoid crowding presented one of the most drastic measures that countries had to take to counter the COVID19 pandemic and flatten the curve. However, when taken at the right time and the right pace, it proved to be very efficient.

With these measures taken at a relatively early phase in Lebanon, and as numbers of people affected, treated, and cured from the virus reflected a positive outlook of the Lebanese strategy to contain the pandemic, the Lebanese government started organizing flights to get Lebanese expats back home. 

To this end, the ministry put together a team to take care of the logistics and ensure the safety of passengers, health workers, and flight crew. Being a member of this, Omar Bahlawan, a Public Health Nutrition Student at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and the Faculty of Health Sciences, explains about his experience. “I am currently doing my internship at the Ministry of Public Health at the Preventive Medicine Office, in other words, working on the COVID 19 file in Lebanon. In this role, I work on following up with all travelers who came to Lebanon to ensure no symptoms are present. I refer the positive cases to hospitals to get the needed treatment, in addition to being on evacuation flights as a public health practitioner."

“Community work is an important component in world emergencies such as the COVID 19 pandemic", emphasized Omar, who also gave orientation sessions about safety and preventive measures to foreigners who came to Lebanon and worked on awareness campaigns within the Ministry, including acting as a phone operator on the Ministry' hotline to answer questions and enquiries about COVID 19.

Omar is part of the FHS COVID-19 Student Taskforce, a recent collaborative initiative among graduate students, aiming to create an opportunity for student involvement in the pandemic response. Students will both initiate their own projects and/or support the research and intervention initiatives lead by FHS. The group is supported and guided by the Center for Public Health Practice and the FHS Coordinating Strategic Committee-CAPHI. The Taskforce consists currently of 27 student members from all departments and from across different Lebanese regions, divided into 3 subgroups specializing in Data Collection, Communications and Community Mobilization.

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