Lebanon: Border clashes with Israel exacerbate health needs

Displaced people are struggling to find food and other necessities as the violence takes a toll on mental health and financial stability.

An MSF staff member through the window of a shelter for IDPs in Saida, South Lebanon

Lebanon 2024 © Maryam Srour/MSF

Exchanges of fire across the border between Israel and Lebanon began last October and show no signs of abating as people’s needs continue to rise.

In the past five months, fighting between Israeli forces, Hezbollah, and other armed groups has killed more than 300 people in Lebanon and forced over 91,000 from their homes, while exacting a significant toll on financial stability and psychological wellbeing. Lebanon was already in the midst of a dire humanitarian and economic crisis before the current escalation began, with two out of three people living in poverty and an overburdened and overstretched health care system facing increasing pressure. 

Teams from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are providing psychological first aid to displaced people who fled the border region. Many of them left their homes with no possessions and struggle to obtain basic necessities such as food and blankets. In Al-Merouaniye, about 37 miles from the border, more than 60 families are living in an abandoned hotel that has been repurposed into a shelter. 

Clothes drying on balconies in a hotel turned shelter
Over 60 families from various towns currently reside in an abandoned hotel-turned- shelter in Al Merouaniye, near Saida. Lebanon 2024 © Maryam Srour/MSF

The toll on mental health

“My older son has had three mental crises,” said Ali Hammoud, a barber and a father of three from Rab Al-Thalathine. “We go to sleep, wake up, and repeat this every day. We are worried that our kids will develop mental problems from this situation. The same routine, day in and day out, is more burdensome to a child than an adult.”

Felicitas Steinhoff, MSF's mental health activity manager, warned of the psychological toll of prolonged displacement. "We’re seeing an increase in depression and anxiety disorders. In terms of mental health, people are really good at coping with short-term stress, but what we see here is families who have been displaced from their homes for over five months and are living with a lot of uncertainty around when—and even if—they might be able to go back. 

If I could rub a magic lantern right at this moment, I would wish to be back home in my village. We have no solution. Only God knows where we’re headed.

Ali, displaced MSF patient

An MSF mobile medical team cares for people with chronic diseases and makes regular visits to a clinic in Nabatiyeh governorate along the border, and has provided 373 consultations since the start of 2024 in both locations. 

Facing an uncertain future 

Manahel Rammel, who fled her home in the border town of Oudaisseh on October 8, says that children and youth are suffering the most. "Young people aged between 18 and 20 sit around without any idea of what they want to do,” she said. “Their future is gone."

Manahel’s daughter is fortunate to be studying in Beirut, but Manahel is unable to visit her there due to the high cost of transportation. Like many people across Lebanon, she was already struggling to make ends meet before the current crisis, but being displaced has exacerbated her financial difficulties.

As Lebanon grapples with its fourth year of severe economic turmoil, the current violence has halted or severely impacted many people’s livelihoods, leaving them unable to meet even basic needs.

Ali initially sought refuge in Beirut but moved to the shelter in Al-Merouaniye after his savings were exhausted. "We left our homes with nothing but the shirts on our backs,” he said. During the [four-day] truce [in November 2023], we went back to pack some essentials and clothes just to warm ourselves... I had some savings, but I stayed in Beirut for two months and spent all my money before eventually moving to this shelter.”

While the walls of the abandoned hotel offer some safety and warmth to the families sheltering there, they—like thousands of other displaced people across Lebanon—are in dire need of comprehensive and sustained assistance as they face an uncertain future.

MSF mental health manager addresses a group of women.
MSF holds an open mental health session for a group of internally displaced women in a collective shelter near Saida. Lebanon 2024 © Maryam Srour/MSF

About our work in Lebanon

To ensure continuous access to health care for internally displaced people, MSF has deployed mobile medical team supporting a primary health care center in Nabatieh. In accordance with the Ministry of Public Health’s emergency preparedness and response plan, and in collaboration with other health partners, our teams have also provided training for health care workers on trauma care and mass casualty management in hospitals across Lebanon. We have also pre-positioned medical kits in several hospitals and medical facilities. Learn more about our work in Lebanon.