The saying goes that whenever it rains in Syria, the Lebanese have to open their umbrellas. This now rings truer than ever.
MSF in Lebanon 2014
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.
Mohammad, Syrian refugee in Lebanon
“I lost everything in the war, everything. Today, I have a huge responsibility for my family. I have to take care of them.
"So I make sure not to overlook anything that could lead to the amputation of one of my feet, for example. I’ve seen that happen to other diabetics.
"The MSF doctor explained clearly how to take care of myself and my wife is very careful about my diet.”
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: 2014
With few employment opportunities and dwindling financial resources, the 1.2 million Syrian refugees, Palestinian refugees from Syria, and people returning to Lebanon, are largely reliant on humanitarian assistance for survival.
As no official refugee camps have been established in response to the Syrian conflict, a very large number of people live in informal settlements, collective shelters, farms, garages, unfinished buildings and old schools, with inadequate access to shelter, food and water.
Overcrowding and exposure to extreme weather conditions are also making matters considerably worse.
The lack of healthcare is one of the main problems. Thousands of people who had previously received regular medical treatment in Syria for chronic diseases such as hypertension, asthma and diabetes have had to interrupt their treatment – sometimes with severe consequences – because they cannot access or afford it.
Many women receive no monitoring during their pregnancies and specialised care is completely out of reach for most people.
We continue to respond with free medical care for people in need, regardless of nationality and refugee registration status.
Our teams provide a wide range of healthcare for refugees in Lebanon. They are working:
- In the Bekaa Valley (basic and reproductive healthcare, treating chronic diseases, and counselling)
- In Shatila camp in southern Beirut (basic healthcare for children under 15, treatment for chronic diseases and mental health support services),
- In Tripoli (treatment for acute and chronic illnesses, reproductive healthcare, counselling and routine vaccinations)
- To support three health centres in southern Lebanon (with activities focused on children under 15, chronic diseases, mental healthcare and reproductive and maternal health services. There is also a referral system for patients in need of specialist healthcare).
Find out more in our 2014 International Activity Report.
At the end of 2014, MSF had 284 staff in Lebanon. We first worked in the country in 1976.