Syrians and 450,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon
Lebanese people, i.e. 27% of the population, living below the poverty line ($8.60 per day)
Lebanese people living below the extreme poverty line ($5.70 per day)
Lebanon hosts more Syrian refugees than any other country
Lebanon is dealing with an enormous influx of refugees. It is a major challenge for the humanitarian organisations working in the region. Over 5.5 million Syrians, men, women and children, have fled the civil war which has been raging in their country since 2011. Most have found refuge in neighbouring countries and over a third have fled to Lebanon. There are around 1.5 million Syrian refugees in the country (of whom 1 million have been registered by the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR), meaning that one in four people in Lebanon are refugees.
Scattered across hundreds of locations in Lebanon, often in the poorest parts of the country, the Syrian refugees experience difficulties in accessing essential services. Their limited financial resources are increasingly forcing them to live in camps, overcrowded apartments and buildings that are abandoned or still under construction.
Tensions between the Syrian refugees and the Lebanese people
Such a substantial influx of new arrivals, added to the Palestinian refugees who have been in Lebanon since 1948, can create difficulties for both the Syrian refugees and their hosts as they live and work alongside each other. The population increase places a severe strain on essential services, such as water, healthcare and education, which were already failing to meet the needs of the Lebanese people. As a result, the Lebanese authorities have introduced a series of measures to restrict the influx of refugees, in particular by refusing to set up official refugee camps or by blocking their registration. This situation exacerbates the vulnerability of the refugees and increases their desire to leave Lebanon and travel to countries which are more welcoming, notably Turkey.
Médecins du Monde works in the Beqaa Valley – in Zahle, Kamed El Loz, El Ain, El Qaa and Qab Elias. We also work in Beirut (at Rafik Hariri University Hospital) and in Aley.
Medical assistance for refugees
Médecins du Monde supports five primary healthcare centres and one mobile clinic in the Mount Lebanon region and in the Beqaa Valley, where there are particularly large numbers of Syrian refugees, as well as a mental health unit at a hospital in Beirut. Through MdM, the victims of the Syrian conflict and the most vulnerable members of the Lebanese population are able to receive healthcare and medication. Cooperation with local partners provides them with financial support and enables a focus on the quality of the care and treatment received by the beneficiaries. We work in particular with AMEL, a Lebanses NGO with a universal and international human rights vision. We also work with Skoun, the Association of Druze Women and the Parish of El Qaa.
To address the psychological problems experienced by the Syrian people, psychotherapists provide consultations and ensure patients receive treatment at the centres we support. People with more serious mental health problems are referred to specialist services. Médecins du Monde also runs awareness-raising sessions for Syrian refugees and the most vulnerable Lebanese communities. The aim is partly to reduce the level of discrimination towards patients with psychological problems and partly to provide them with information about access to mental healthcare and what services are available near where they live.
Collaboration with lebanese and international healthcare institution
The Médecins du Monde team is supported by community workers who are raising awareness through prevention activities and provide support by directing people to the appropriate facilities within their communities. We also work to support and strengthen the capacity of teams of volunteers from the refugee communities.
In 2019, Médecins du Monde was involved in opening the first mental health unit in a general public hospital in Beirut, the Rafik Hariri University Hospital. Important work was also undertaken with the Ministry of Public Health’s National Mental Health Programme, which aims in time to establish a public mental health service accessible to everyone throughout Lebanon. This work of integrating mental health into the national health service involves strengthening the capacity of healthcare staff by providing training in techniques which will help them to identify mental health conditions and provide adequate care to patients.
Finally, in cooperation with other national and international organisations, MdM is part of advocacy initiatives to develop policy and practice in relation to the right to health – including mental health – for all.
Supporting mental health research
Médecins du Monde is also working in partnership with regional and international academic institutions to expand mental health research in the Middle East.
In 2019, we implemented two research projects in Lebanon in partnership with local and international institutions:
- BIOPATH is a project seeking to understand how environmental and biological risk and protective factors interact in the prediction of children’s resilience following war and displacement. This project is led in collaboration with Queen Mary University of London and the Institute for Development, Research, Advocacy and Applied Care (IDRAAC).
- t-CETA is a pilot project to trial the development, management and evaluation of a psychological intervention delivered by phone for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. This project is led in collaboration with Queen Mary University of London, the American University of Beirut, Johns Hopkins University and Medical School Hamburg.
In 2019, Médecins du Monde’s activities in Lebanon were funded by the French Development Agency (AFD), the Crisis and Support Centre (CDCS) of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Global Affairs Canada (AMC), the King Baudouin Foundation and donations from generous supporters.
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