Why are we there?

  • Healthcare exclusion
  • Mental health

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Our work

This is an extract from our latest Activity Report, looking back on our work in the previous year.


Many of the 200,000 Syrians who had sought refuge in Lebanon by the end of 2012 were unable to access the healthcare they needed.

Some 63 percent of unregistered refugees had received no assistance whatsoever, according to the Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) study Misery Beyond the War Zone, conducted at the end of 2012.

Misery Beyond the War Zone

The survey revealed a marked deterioration in the humanitarian situation for refugees and other displaced people in Lebanon, in large part due to very lengthy registration delays.

Refugees in Lebanon are not entitled to formal assistance if they are not registered or at least enrolled in the registration process.

Many live in overcrowded, substandard structures and cannot afford medical care.

Local organisations and individuals within the Lebanese community have made a tremendous effort to help, but they are reaching the limits of their capacity.

The situation worsened in July, when the Lebanese government announced that a lack of funds was forcing it to stop financing refugees’ medical care.

Assisting refugees in the Bekaa valley

MSF offered basic healthcare and mental health services in the north and east of the country. Teams worked at six health facilities in the Bekaa valley.

In November, as needs grew and winter loomed, MSF distributed blankets and heating fuel as well as hygiene and cooking kits, and baby milk and nappies to thousands of refugees in the Bekaa valley. In Aarsal, staff provided mental health support until the end of December.

Expanding activities in Tripoli

An MSF team began working in Tripoli in February. Staff at Dar Al-Zahra hospital provided basic healthcare, as well as treatment for chronic diseases and mental health services.

In April, a mental health team started work at Tripoli government hospital, and in June MSF began to support the hospital’s emergency department by training medical staff. Since November, MSF has been offering basic health services for vulnerable people in the poorest and most volatile neighbourhoods of the city.

MSF had been running a mental health programme in Wadi Khaled, but since significant numbers of refugees left the town and moved to Tripoli, it was closed in September.

Assisting Palestinian refugees

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees are living long term in overcrowded camps in Lebanon. Ein el-Hilweh, in Sidon (Saïda), is the most crowded, and the population has grown with the arrival of Palestinian refugees from Syria.

MSF provided mental health services in two UN clinics and in Al-Nidaa Al-Insani hospital. Since March, services have also been available outside the Palestinian camp in Sidon, in the Palestinian Red Crescent Society hospital and in Sidon government hospital, primarily to vulnerable Lebanese and Palestinian refugees living in unofficial gatherings outside the camp.

Mental health services at Burj el-Barajneh, in the suburbs of Beirut, which included psychiatric and psychological care, were handed over to the municipality and to the Islamic Health Society in December.

Staff had worked at the MSF community mental health centre, the UN clinic, the Palestinian Red Crescent hospital, and carried out home visits since 2009. More than 17,500 consultations were held over four years.

MSF also coordinated a primary trauma care course for emergency doctors and nurses throughout the country. More than 150 doctors were trained in various regions.

At the end of 2012, MSF had 81 staff in Lebanon. MSF first worked in the country in 1976.

Patient story

Sami*, 31-year-old Syrian man, Bekaa valley

“We come from the Damascus countryside. We arrived in Lebanon 15 days ago. We fled under shelling with only the clothes we were wearing, when we felt we were about to die. My two nephews, aged four and six, were both killed, and my sister-in-law was wounded. My mother suffers from hypertension and my father is blind.

We are now renting a flat in Baalbeck. The city is full of Syrian refugees. We have only a mat and a few mattresses. It’s cold, we need fuel for heating, and we don’t have money to pay the rent. I cannot find work, life here is expensive, and we need four bread bundles a day.

It is the first time I have been to the MSF clinic. I learned about it when I saw a banner announcing a mobile clinic. Too many people were waiting their turn two days ago so I was told to come back today.

My wife is six months pregnant. I brought her to see the doctor because she has been through so much fear and horror.  She is feeling some pain in her womb, but the doctor reassured us that everything was going well, it is only cramps. He also examined my mother and gave her the drugs she needs for her hypertension and ulcer.

My wife was refused a consultation at a local clinic because we are not yet registered with the UN refugee agency. The main problem we are facing for registration is that we are lost. We do not know where to find the registration offices. We were told to go to Al-Marj, 50 kilometres from Baalbeck. With my family we are 10 people – can you imagine me taking all of them so far for registration, in the cold, in their state of health?”

*The man’s name has been changed.

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