Why are we there?
- Health care exclusion
- Mental health
This is an excerpt from MSF's 2014 International Report:
An estimated 1.2 million Syrian refugees, Palestinian refugees from Syria, and Lebanese returnees have sought refuge in Lebanon since the Syrian conflict began in 2011. Lebanon, a tiny country with a population of only four million, is struggling to cope.
With few employment opportunities and dwindling financial resources, the refugees and returnees are largely reliant on humanitarian assistance for survival. As no official refugee camps have been established in response to the Syrian conflict, a very large number of people live in informal settlements, collective shelters, farms, garages, unfinished buildings, and old schools, with inadequate access to shelter, food, and water. Overcrowding and exposure to extreme weather conditions have a negative impact on their health.
The lack of health care is one of the main problems. Thousands of people who had previously received regular medical treatment in Syria for chronic diseases such as hypertension, asthma, and diabetes have had to interrupt their treatment—sometimes with severe consequences—because they cannot access or afford it. Many women receive no monitoring during their pregnancies and specialized care is completely out of reach for most people. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continues to respond with free medical care for people in need, regardless of nationality and refugee registration status.
Many people who have crossed into Lebanon have stayed close to the border, in areas such as Bekaa Valley, where there is insufficient health care infrastructure to meet the current needs. MSF provides basic and reproductive health care, treatment for chronic diseases, counseling, and health promotion activities to Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese. Teams work at clinics in the towns of Baalbek and Majdal Anjar (West Bekaa), Aarsal (North Bekaa), and in Hermel. Across the Bekaa Valley, 113,000 consultations were carried out during the year.
MSF continues to work in Shatila camp in southern Beirut, a Palestinian refugee settlement dating back to 1949, where more recent Palestinian refugees from Syria and Syrian refugees are also living. The focus is on unregistered refugees who are not eligible for official assistance and registered refugees with medical needs falling outside the UN Refugee Agency’s eligibility criteria. Basic health care for children under 15, treatment for chronic diseases, and mental health support services are available. A referral system is in place for patients requiring specialist medical intervention, such as Caesarean sections for women with high-risk pregnancies and birth complications.
In the coastal city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon a team works in Dar al Zahraa Hospital in the Abou Samra neighborhood. Medical services, including treatment for acute and chronic illnesses, reproductive health care, counseling, and routine vaccinations, are provided to vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian refugees, regardless of their status. Similar services have been offered in Abdie since April. MSF also offers reproductive health care, counseling, and care for acute diseases in Jabal Mohsen and Bab el Tabbaneh dispensaries.
A small team based in southern Lebanon offers basic health care to refugees. MSF supports three health centers, with activities focused on children under 15, chronic diseases, mental health care, and reproductive and maternal health services. There is also a referral system for patients in need of specialist health care. In 2014, MSF extended its health care program from Ein-el-Hilweh camp to assist the Palestinian refugee community, Syrian refugees, and vulnerable residents across the Sidon area. More than 4,800 mental health consultations were conducted; nearly double the number that took place in 2013.
At the end of 2014, MSF had 284 staff in Lebanon. MSF first worked in the country in 1976.
Malak, 23 years old, Syrian refugee
My mother came yesterday with my two younger brothers from Qara. She had a very difficult journey because there was constant shelling on the way. It took them 18 days to get here. They moved from one neighborhood to another until it was safe for them to cross the border. My husband and I took a van with our two children (four and two years old) 10 days ago. People were calling on each other in all Qara to leave. The situation was going to be very dangerous. The first couple of days we didn’t move; we thought they were after young men for the army service. But then we understood that even women and children would be targeted. So we left.