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MSF in Lebanon, 2011
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Following the arrival of thousands of Syrians fleeing violence in their country, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) extended its activities in Lebanon.
MSF began by donating emergency supplies to health centers near the border with Syria. In November, a team set up a mental health program in Wadi Khaled, a region in northeastern Lebanon, serving a local population of more than 20,000 people as well as Syrians seeking refuge in Lebanon. Staff carried out psychological and psychiatric consultations.
Mental healthcare in Palestinian refugee camps
Life in the overcrowded Palestinian refugee camps is arduous, and this has a significant impact on mental wellbeing, particularly for those who have already suffered traumatic experiences. MSF offers community-based mental health services – counseling, treatment and social support – in two refugee camps and the area surrounding them.
Staff make home visits and work to raise awareness of mental health services in an effort to reduce the stigmatization of mental illness. On World Mental Health Day, October 10, the MSF-produced documentary film Where Do I Begin? directed by Lebanese- Palestinian filmmaker Carol Mansour, had its premiere screening in Beirut.
Both Palestinian refugees and local people who would otherwise be unable to afford mental healthcare can go to the MSF community mental health center outside Burj el-Barajneh camp in Beirut, as well as to MSF services at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) clinic and the Palestinian Red Crescent hospital inside the camp.
In April, MSF extended its services to Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp, in the city of Sidon (Saïda), south of Beirut, where some 75,000 people live within just one square kilometer. There are regular security incidents and clashes between political factions. MSF’s team works in the two UNRWA clinics and in Al-Nidaa Al-Insani hospital. Close to 380 patients in Sidon, mostly aged between 18 and 40, received psychological or psychiatric care in 2011.
In total, staff saw more than 1,000 new patients and carried out more than 7,500 mental health consultations in Lebanon. Patients were mainly suffering from depression, anxiety, psychosis and personality disorders.
At the end of 2011, MSF had 34 staff in Lebanon. MSF first worked in the country in 1976.