More than 1 million Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring Lebanon in recent years and registered with UNHCR. Many more are unregistered. Most are living in desperately poor conditions. Some families have been forced to take their children out of school or to skip meals to make ends meet. Both Syrian refugees and their Lebanese hosts, who also suffer high rates of poverty, face a dearth of quality health care.
The expanding population and other pressures have overstretched Lebanese health facilities, causing many of the most vulnerable individuals to fall through the cracks. Health care services in Lebanon are expensive, and clinics often are far from home, adding transportation costs to the mix. In remote, underserved villages, the nearest primary health care clinic can be a 30-minute drive away or more.
With generous funding from UN OCHA, Relief International fills these gaps by supporting 11 primary health care centers affiliated with the Ministry of Public Health in North Lebanon, Beirut and Mount Lebanon. Priority is given to children, pregnant and lactating women and the elderly. RI will run the centers through October 2017.
The centers serve people like 32-year-old Mohamad and his wife Dalal, who have six children and fled Syria when the conflict began. The family makes its home in a former restaurant in Donnieh Btormaz, a small village that lies two-and-half hours from Beirut. Employment opportunities in Donnieh Btormaz are scarce and Mohamad, who suffers from chronic back pain, struggles to provide for the family.
“It gives us great pleasure to see the health center active again with doctors of all specialties coming to examine and treat the patients,” Mohamad says.
The center is within walking distance of the family’s home, and offers affordable consultations as well as free services. Mohamad says that even some of his relatives living in surrounding villages are now visiting this center because it is so affordable.
Over the course of this project, RI expects to support 85,360 doctor visits among its eleven clinics, many of which would not happen otherwise. In addition, more than 8,140 children in the region are slated for vaccination.
To build awareness of the clinics and services offered, RI is engaging Social Assistants, community members who work as a link between the target communities and the health care centers. We have also created a Woman to Woman initiative, in which women teach other women in their neighborhood about infant care, family planning, nutrition and hygiene. These women, in turn, pass along the knowledge they acquire, empowering a whole network of women to take charge of their own health.