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MSF in Lebanon, 2010
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Following the 2006 war in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah, an MSF evaluation of the medical needs indicated that one in six people in the country were in need of psychological care.
In 2008, MSF opened a mental health centre in Burj el-Barajneh, in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Close to the mental health centre is Beirut’s most densely populated refugee camp: some 18,000 Palestinians live in just 1.5 km2. Despite some improvements made in 2010, general conditions in Burj el-Barajneh camp remain poor. Running water and electricity are available for only a few hours a day and, on average, one room is shared by four people. There are few education or employment opportunities, and minimal health and social service provision. This has a serious impact on the mental wellbeing of individuals. Many Palestinians are also deeply affected by the absence of prospects for the future.
The MSF mental health centre provides free mental healthcare, including home visits, counselling and social support. It primarily serves Palestinian refugees. In 2010, 780 new patients, mainly aged between 25 and 40, received care from the MSF team of psychiatrists and psychologists. The main diagnoses observed so far are depression, anxiety, psychosis and personality disorders.
MSF mental health services have also been established within the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) clinic and the hospital run by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, which are both located inside the camp. MSF’s community mental health centre serves as a referral clinic for the most complicated cases. This set-up should facilitate the future integration of mental healthcare into the health system available for Lebanese residents as well as Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
To reduce the stigmatisation of mental health issues among the people of Burj el-Barajneh, to mark World Mental Health Day in October 2010, MSF organised an art exhibition in its mental health centre and a theatrical performance in the camp.
MSF has worked in Lebanon since 2008.