1.5 million

Syrians and 450,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon


Palestinian refugees still living in Lebanon


Lebanese people living below the extreme poverty line 2020

A humanitarian emergency situation in Lebanon

Conflict and severe poverty

Ten years after the beginning of the Syrian crisis, Lebanon remains a fragile country marked by conflict and serious institutional and social instability. The country’s economy has been held back by the worsening crisis and, with the added unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 epidemic, both refugees and host communities have been left in a desperate situation.

Around a million people in Lebanon are living below the poverty line

Around a million people in Lebanon are living below the poverty line. According to the World Bank, the current economic and financial crisis may put over 356,000 households (1.7 million people or 45% of the population) below the upper poverty line and a large proportion of them into extreme poverty. Against this background, our team and health sector stakeholders in Lebanon have noticed that vulnerable households are increasingly relying on harmful coping mechanisms to survive from day to day, including delaying access to care or treatment.

Given the emergency situation in Lebanon, managing the crisis requires an effective action plan that can seek to tackle the political and social issues.



The humanitarian emergency in Lebanon: a difficult reception of Syrian refugees

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 879,598 have been registered by the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR), meaning that one in four people in Lebanon are refugees.

The population increase places a severe strain on essential services

Scattered across hundreds of locations in Lebanon, often in the poorest parts of the country, the Syrian refugees experience difficulties in accessing essential services.

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.

Addressing the situation of the migrant communities requires humanitarian action, in particular targeted at refugee accommodation and inclusion policies.

© Olivier Papegnies
© Olivier Papegnies

Our humanitarian assistance in Lebanon

Our humanitarian assistance in Lebanon comprises several aspects, with the priority being medical assistance for Lebanese people caught in the crossfire of the crisis.


Médecins du Monde helping the victims of the explosion in Beirut: a humanitarian emergency

Following the catastrophic explosion in Beirut on Tuesday 4 August 2020 in which 200 people died and 6,500 were injured, Médecins du Monde intensified our humanitarian action in Lebanon. We have been working with people affected by the explosion to enable them to access psychological support and humanitarian aid.

In the first two months after the explosion, the teams saw over 1,000 people – men, women and children. Demand was significant and providing follow-up for the victims was essential. To consolidate our action we established a local base in Karantina, the area closest to the port and where the worst destruction took place. We continue to provide mental health consultations at this centre and plan to be involved long-term to help with the city’s reconstruction.

942 mental health consultations were provided in the district of Karantina following the explosion at the port of Beirut in August 2020. These consultations were provided in the context of a medical assistance plan for the Lebanese people.

Lebanon’s central storage facility for medicines and medical equipment was severely damaged by the explosion. In response to the destruction of these essential supplies, MdM sent two emergency health kits. Each kit contained medicines, single-use items and instruments to cover the needs of 10,000 people for three months. These supplies were distributed by the Ministry of Health to 75 healthcare facilities in the country.

Lebanon is now experiencing one of the worst economic crises in its history. The Beirut explosion and the health crisis due to coronavirus were yet more blows to a country which had already suffered multiple traumas.

In 2020, Médecins du Monde was working in the Beqaa Valley, Beirut and the Mount Lebanon region – in El Qaa, Baalbek, Beirut, Kamid el-Loz, El Ain and Aley.


The Médecins du Monde team in Lebanon is supported by community workers who carry out awareness-raising and referral work to support Syrian victims to appropriate structures. © MdM
The Médecins du Monde team in Lebanon is supported by community workers who carry out awareness-raising and referral work to support Syrian victims to appropriate structures. © MdM
Notre clinique mobile dans un camp de réfugié © Olivier Papegnies
Notre clinique mobile dans un camp de réfugié © Olivier Papegnies

Providing medical assistance to refugees in Lebanon

As part of our humanitarian work in Lebanon, we have rolled out large-scale medical aid based on a number of priorities.

Primary and mental healthcare: a medical priority in Lebanon


Médecins du Monde has enabled the most vulnerable Syrian refugees and Lebanese people to access primary healthcare and medicines. Cooperation with local partners ensures that they have access to good quality care and medicines. We are working particularly closely with AMEL, a Lebanese NGO with a universal, international vision of access to healthcare, and also with Skoun, Embrace, ABAAD, the National Mental Health Programme, Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut, the ICRC, Humanity and Inclusion and the parish of El Qaa.

Médecins du Monde is currently supporting a primary healthcare centre and a mobile clinic in the Beqaa Valley, where there are large numbers of Syrian refugees living in very precarious conditions.

To address the psychological problems experienced by the Syrian and Lebanese 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 institutions

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. This is how we managed the effective implementation of our humanitarian action plan in Lebanon.

We have helped to establish community mental health centres at a general public hospital in Beirut, Rafik Hariri University Hospital, and in Baalbek, in conjunction with a service for people who use drugs managed by our partner, Skoun. Substantive 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, as we are doing for example in Tripoli.

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.

Joint research into mental health: a milestone in our medical assistance plan in Lebanon

Médecins du Monde is also working in partnership with regional and international academic institutions to expand mental health research in the Middle East.

En 2020, as part of our humanitarian action in Lebanon, our teams implemented a research project in partnership with local and international institutions: 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.



our institutional support

Humanitarian Coalition Logo
Usaid logo
Logo de la Fondation Roi Baudoin
Quebec Ministry of International Relations and La Francophonie (MRIF) logo
Refurbishment of medical infrastructure damaged during the civil war.
Emergency assistance for people displaced by the war between Lebanon and Israel. This programme closed in 1998.
Intervention at the physical and psychological rehabilitation centre for 3,000 former detainees from the Israeli Khiam prison.
Projects providing medical, social and legal assistance in around 15 prisons until 2008.
Programme on access to healthcare for Syrian refugees and the most vulnerable members of the Lebanese population.
Opening of the first mental health unit in a public general hospital in Beirut.
Working with people affected by the explosion to enable them to access psychological support and humanitarian aid.

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