Lebanon gained its independence from France in 1943. Since independence, the country has been marked by periods of political turmoil interspersed with prosperity built on its position as a regional center for finance and trade.
The country's 1975-90 civil war, which resulted in an estimated 120,000 fatalities, was followed by years of social and political instability. Sectarianism is a key element of Lebanese political life. Neighboring Syria has historically influenced Lebanon's foreign policy and internal policies, and its military occupied Lebanon from 1976 until 2005. The Lebanon-based Hezbollah militia and Israel continued attacks and counterattacks against each other after Syria's withdrawal, and fought a brief war in 2006. Lebanon's borders with Syria and Israel remain unresolved.
The Syria conflict cut off one of Lebanon's major markets and a transport corridor through the Levant. The influx of nearly one million registered and an estimated 300,000 unregistered Syrian refugees has increased social tensions and heightened competition for low-skill jobs and public services. The recent banking crisis that erupted in riots and demonstrations in October 2019 has made it even more difficult for everyone in the country. The currency has effectively been devalued and lost half its value.
Syrian refugees in Lebanon are more vulnerable than ever, with more than half now living in extreme poverty and over three quarters living below the poverty line – according to the findings of a new survey by UNHCR, UNICEF and WFP. Years into the crisis, Syrian refugees in Lebanon are finding it even more difficult to make ends meet and are more reliant than ever on international aid – amid an uncertain outlook for humanitarian funding.
WCF sponsors Hygiene and Food Care Kits for the most vulnerable families (mainly Syrian, Kurdish and Iraqi Refugees and poorer Lebanese) affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic. For this Project, we are working with our original local partners RCB as well as Heart For Lebanon and Kingdom Partnership Network to reach 3,150 families or approximately18,900 persons throughout Lebanon.
Lebanon, with an original population of 4 million, has more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees and tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees throughout the country, the most refugees per capita in the world. For now, there is great fear that Lebanon holds thousands of people affected by COVID-19 particularly among the refugee communities, but aren’t being reported, according to the Guardian.
Our Medical Life Center in Nabaa continues to operate and we’re seeing and hearing of symptomatic cases, although we are referring suspected cases to the central hospital system. All the refugees are now being hit in multiple ways – the banking crisis that devalued the currency by half, the healthcare system in crisis with medical staff not being paid and most refugees living in squalor, crammed into small apartments with multiple families and unhygienic conditions. If the pandemic reaches these communities, the effect could be catastrophic for a country already on the brink.
WCF launched 2 Medical Life Centers in Beirut and northern Lebanon in partnership with Resurrection Church Beirut (RCB) and Kfarhabou Baptist Church. There are tens of thousands of Syrian, Kurdish and Iraqi refugees in the catchment areas of both of these ministries. Refugees find themselves in increasingly difficult situations as the War Crisis continues. These Life Centers provide primary and specialist care and subsidized pharmacy and lab/imaging services for the refugees that need it the most.
The humanitarian and medical needs of the refugees have overwhelmed the already overtaxed Lebanese healthcare system. Throughout the crisis, the levels of funding from international donors were erratic and far below the amounts required to meet the health needs of the refugees. Primary care has been partly subsidized by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), but this funding steadily has decreased year by year as the crisis prolongs.
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following conditions are considered priority conditions that constitute a distinct health burden for the Syrian refugee population – anemia, diabetes, hypertension and mental health. The transient nature of life in refugee camps and informal settings presents unique challenges that include unstable social and economic settings which are not conducive to provision of quality health care services. In light of these constraints, there is a need to address immediate primary and perinatal care needs of Syrian refugees.
In addition to these primary health care concerns, pregnant women and newborn babies tend to be vulnerable in these challenging situations. Women in conflict-affected and refugee situations tend to have little control over financial resources, less access to transport, increased domestic burden, increased gender-based violence experiences, and less control over family planning decisions3. Consequences of these challenges often include increased fetal mortality, low birth weight, premature labor, antenatal complications and increase in puerperal infections compared to pre-conflict levels.