The saying goes that whenever it rains in Syria, the Lebanese have to open their umbrellas. This now rings truer than ever before.
MSF in Lebanon 2015
In its heyday, comparisons were often made of the small Mediterranean country with Switzerland because of its economic power and diversity.
But today, it is struggling to cope. The civil war in Syria is putting a colossal strain on its neighbours, including Lebanon whose population stands at just four million.
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been working in Lebanon since 1976, when we began our response to the 15 year civil war. Today, we are helping those seeking refuge from one of the worst conflicts in modern history.
Mahmoud Meteb Al Ahmad, 55, from Aleppo, Syria.
He’s receiving treatment for diabetes and hypertension at the MSF clinic in El Abdeh, northern Lebanon.
"I have been living in a tent with my wife and five daughters for three years.
“This year the winter was very harsh, high winds almost uprooted our tents and heavy rains led to soil erosion… we burnt clothes, plastic, anything to stay warm.
“We lived off humanitarian aid because even the construction and agricultural work that we used to do during the other seasons became impossible. "
Samar Ismail, MSF counsellor, Shatila camp, Beirut
“Many of the people I see come from parts of Syria that have been bombed. Some have lost children or other family members.
"The first thing I try to do is understand what happened to them and where the negative feelings are coming from.
"We work on stress management, after we understand the problems. Most people have difficulty understanding why people have treated them the way they have.”
MSF’s work in Lebanon: 2015
Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011, it is estimated that more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees and Palestinian refugees from Syria have arrived in Lebanon. The small country is struggling to cope with their acute humanitarian and medical needs.
Five years into the conflict, most of the refugees are still largely reliant on humanitarian assistance for their daily survival. No official refugee camps have been established, so families are forced to live in informal settlements such as garages, farms, old schools or unfinished buildings.
Overcrowding and inadequate food, water and shelter have had a negative impact on people’s health, but they are unable to access the medical services they need. We are providing free healthcare to refugees, including those whose regular treatment for chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma has been interrupted because of the war, and expectant mothers, who have often had no access to specialised care or medical surveillance during their pregnancies.
We are continuing to provide basic and reproductive healthcare, health promotion activities, mental health counselling and treatment for chronic diseases to the vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian refugees living in the Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border.
In southern Beirut, we are working in Shatila camp. MSF’s care includes basic healthcare for children under 15, treatment for chronic diseases, mental health support services and a women’s health centre assisting around 170 deliveries per month.
An MSF team is working in the Abu Samra neighbourhood of Tripoli, providing reproductive health services, treatment for acute and chronic diseases, routine vaccinations and counselling.
Other MSF teams work in the districts of Jabal Mohsen and Bab el Tabbaneh in Tripoli, where fighting between local communities has intensified. We offer treatment for acute illnesses, reproductive health services and counselling to the local population.
In January, we distributed urgently needed winter essentials to Syrian refugees in Akkar district. Around 900 families — 4,700 people — were given stoves, fuel or blankets. Few other organisations work in this area.
From April, MSF worked in the city of El Abdeh, treating acute and chronic diseases and providing ante- and postnatal care.
Our team in the Sidon area shifted its focus to healthcare for Palestinians from Lebanon, newly arrived Palestinian refugees from Syria and Syrians, particularly children under the age of 15. Throughout 2015, MSF supported three health centres, providing treatment for acute and chronic diseases, mental healthcare and reproductive and maternal health services, and also a referral system for patients in need of specialist care.
Find out more in our 2015 International Activity Report.
At the end of 2015, MSF had 343 staff in Lebanon. We first worked in the country in 1976.