COVID-19: Exploring Faith Dimensions
Generous Responses in a Refugee Camp to the COVID-19 Crisis

Local communities respond to overlapping disasters around the world, often with generous and creative responses. This includes people who are themselves refugees. The Refugee Hosts Project at University College London reports on how refugees are assisting each other in Baddawi camp in Northern Lebanon. In that context the crisis tends to accentuate local, national, and international structures of inequality and exclusion. Many camp residents, identifying risks centered outside the camp, have worked to encourage people to remain within their home camps (many Syrian refugees perceive that the camps are safer than non-camp areas in Lebanon). Activists from the camp, not outside authorities, lobbied for entrance and exits to the camp to be closed when the COVID-19 crisis erupted.

Traditions of mutual discipline and assistance are well established in the camps. Before the curfew started, many individuals and groups in Baddawi camp worked tirelessly to prepare and distribute information, guidelines, and resources to keep camp residents as safe as possible. Last year Palestinian residents in the camp collected donations (zakāt and/or ṣadaqāt) to prepare iftar food baskets for all camp residents. Meanwhile, the number of people in the camp who need assistance has increased, with a loss of UNRWA funding, the collapse of the Lebanese economy, and now the COVID-19 crisis.

As the camp goes into this year's holy month under present restrictions, door-to-door collections of donations and joint cooking of hot meals for Ramadan is no longer possible. Groups are finding other ways to provide assistance. As an example, groups seek financial and material support from local businesses, including groceries and mini-markets both inside and on the outskirts of the camp. Instead of cooking hot meals, food items are collected and safely distributed so that people can cook their own meals to break the fast when the holy month of Ramadan starts in late April. A facility used before to cook is now a storage and packing unit, and deliveries will soon start from there.

(Based on April 3, 2020, Refugee Hosts article)
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