Shouldering the care of refugees

January 2016

Lebanon

Amira, aged 54, is one of 1.2 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon with her husband and family. Life as a refugee is hard but for Amira it is even harder. She has a life-threatening kidney disease requiring 3-hour dialysis twice a week.

Amira talks to a healthworker about her health needs.
Amira 54 is a refugee living in Lebanon who has life-threatening kidney disease requiring 3-hour dialysis twice a week.
WHO/P. Balladelli

In Syria, she received these services at no cost. In Lebanon, however, the cost has been a challenge. Initially, with support from UNHCR, Amira received dialysis services at Mount Lebanon hospital in Beirut for 3 months, but now she is struggling to pay.

“I am extremely grateful that my family and I are safe. Getting medical care in Lebanon for dialysis is costly. I am paying for my own expenses,” she says. “I have no hope that the hospital will provide the dialysis, but I am asking if they can simply provide me the medicines.”

Continuing healthcare services in crises

Amira receives financial support from people in the community to pay for treatment in Lebanon, but other times she makes the difficult and risky journey back to Damascus in Syria for treatment.

"As the number of refugees increases, the country’s health system has become overstretched, resulting in shortages of medicines and other supplies. To remedy this situation, we are working with the Ministry of Public Health to provide additional medicines including equipment and supplies."

Dr Gabriele Riedner, WHO Acting Representative to Lebanon

To help Amira and many other refugees get the healthcare they need, WHO Lebanon is supporting the Lebanon Ministry of Public Health.

WHO Acting Representative to Lebanon, Dr Gabriele Riedner explains, “As the number of refugees increases, the country’s health system has become overstretched, resulting in shortages of medicines and other supplies. To remedy this situation, we are working with the Ministry of Public Health to provide additional medicines including equipment and supplies."

WHO support

WHO continues to support the Government with medications for 150 000 patients suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, mental health and other chronic health conditions. Additionally, for those who suffer from diabetes, WHO has provided more than 100 000 vials of insulin, which have been distributed to primary health care facilities to serve around 500 vulnerable Syrian and Lebanese patients for a year.

To help patients such as Amira, WHO is procuring a list of medical equipment for 180 primary health care clinics and selected hospitals located in areas with the highest concentration of Syrian refugees. This will allow the health services to cope with the 40% increase in demand.