Lebanon and Jordan, already under considerable strain from hosting large numbers of refugees from Syria, have been forced to confront an invisible and insidious enemy in the form of COVID-19.
STAFF SGT. STEVEN COLVIN U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND CENTRAL
But with the help of U.S. Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) — which has built and maintained strong partnerships with the Lebanese and Jordan Armed Forces over a generation — some of the impact of the virus was alleviated.
The Lebanese Civil-Military Cooperation Center (CIMIC) and the Jordanian Civil-Military Coordination Center (CMCC) have received assistance from civil affairs (CA) teams from the U.S. 96th Civil Affairs Battalion. Together, they have found themselves in the unfamiliar role of supporting civilian agencies on the front lines against the virus.
The CA teams distributed medical and sanitary supplies donated by nongovernmental organizations to communities in Lebanon and Jordan. Throughout the spring of 2020, more than 20,000 hygiene kits were distributed to schoolchildren along with 33,200 masks, 152,000 gloves, 11,200 bottles of hand sanitizer and 19,000 information cards provided to local clinics and medical centers to help prevent the disease.
“We highly appreciate the attitude of the local agencies and the American military teams to provide the municipality of Zarqa with quantities of protective and sterile materials in these difficult conditions facing the kingdom in the fight against the virus,” said Emad Al-Momani, mayor of the city of Zarqa in Jordan. “The gesture has had a great impact on us and shows that the organization and the teams have a humanitarian dimension through these wonderful attitudes.”
The groundwork for the collaboration on COVID-19 response was laid in the months and years leading to the crisis. In collaboration with their military partners in both Jordan and Lebanon during the past decade, teams have improved, refurbished and constructed clinics under U.S. Central Command’s Overseas Humanitarian Disaster and Civil Aid program in underserved areas in both countries.
In April 2020, U.S. special operations forces collaborated with a nongovernmental organization in Lebanon to provide advanced medical training to Lebanese Soldiers who later used that knowledge to promote social distancing.
The Lebanese also received training equipment for a Tactical Combat Casualty Care course at the Hamat Special Forces School. Graduates of the course received their own personal first aid kits.
The CA teams’ work complements the efforts of the U.S. State Department, which recently allocated $13.3 million in new assistance for Lebanon and $8 million for Jordan. The support is intended to ease the effects of COVID-19 among vulnerable citizens and refugees.
This successful COVID response could occur only because of the strong partnerships, trust, and mutual respect developed between SOCCENT and its partners in countries such as Lebanon and Jordan.