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Lebanon: On the road with the mobile clinic

Mobile medical care for Syrian refugees, and locals in need

The Malteser International mobile clinic – a bus converted into a moving consulting room – is visiting the tiny village of Kweichra in Lebanon’s northern Akkar province, one of the country’s poorest and most underdeveloped regions. Multitudes of Syrian refugees, above all women and children, have sought refuge in its empty buildings, construction sites, or in tents and makeshift shelters. The impoverished local population is often unable to afford medical care when they are sick. The refugees are in an even more vulnerable position. The Malteser International clinic bus has been working in the area since September 2014, operated in partnership with the Lebanese Association of the Order of Malta, to provide basic care and medication for free to both locals and refugees. When necessary, they can also be referred to a full-size medical center or hospital for secondary treatment.

In good hands

One of the waiting patients is the 46 year old Mohamad, with his wife and children. The youngest is just one month old, and the oldest is 16. “Three years and four months ago we left our home in Homs and fled here to the Lebanon,” he says. His ten year old son died of injuries caused when he was run over by a car in Lebanon. Just three of his six children are able to go to school here. “Life in Lebanon is expensive for a family of eight,” he says. This makes him even more appreciative of the free medical treatment he receives from the Malteser International mobile clinic. “I come here regularly with my family,” he says. “I have the feeling here that they are in good hands. The team is always pleasant and friendly.”

The only hope

Aicha, too, a mother of six, would not be able to afford a visit to the doctor without the service offered by Malteser International. She fled to the Lebanon one year and eight months ago. Since then, she has heard nothing from her husband and brother, who remained behind in Syria. “I am here with my eleven year old daughter today,” she says. “During the war at home, she was wounded in the eye and needed an operation. Now she needs her medication again.” She receives this for free from the Malteser International team. “Malteser International are my only hope. Otherwise, I would have to borrow the money to pay fort he medication, and I have no idea when I would be able to pay it back.” Whenever she has the chance, Aicha helps in the fields to earn a little money to support her children, and pay her rent.

A rare help

The 48 year-old Samira also has sole responsibility for the survival of her family in a foreign country. “My husband is 60 years old, and he cannot work any more,” she says. Samira had seven children – two boys and five girls. One of the boys died in the civil war in Syria, and the other has up till now not been able to leave the country. Her eldest daughter is already married, and lives with her husband. “We fled to the Lebanon two years ago. My youngest daughter is disabled and she needs special treatment,” Samira says. “The Malteser International clinic is a great help for us, because my daughter can receive her treatment for free. I trust the doctors, and the examinations and treatments here are really good. This sort of thing is rare in the region and almost unthinkable for refugees like us.”

Humanitarian aid for refugees and locals in Lebanon

Lebanon is a melting pot of various religions and cultures: Shiites, Sunnis, Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Druse, as well as Orthodox and Catholic Armenians live here together. Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, almost 1.2 million Syrians have sought refuge in the Lebanon. Alongside other Syrian migrants and refugees from Palestine, the make up a third of the population. The conditions in which the refugees live worsen from day to day. Around 70 per cent live under the poverty line, but ab increasing number of local inhabitants are sliding into poverty and unemployment: the number of Lebanese people in need has grown by almost two thirds since 2011. 

Since summer 2013, Malteser International has been providing humanitarian aid in the Lebanon in cooperation with the Lebanese Association of the Order of Malta. As well as operating the mobile clinic, we also support several medical centers belonging to the Lebanese Order of Malta with medication and medical supplies, as well as distributing aid materials to Syrian refugees and Lebanese people in need.

Read more about our work in the Lebanon

Text: Oumayma Farah / Petra Ipp-Zavazal / Conor Heathcote (February / March 2016)
Photos: Oumayma Farah / Malteser Lebanon

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Middle East refugee crisis, facts and figures 2015:

In Syria, Malteser International supports:

  • 1 Hospital, 2 static, and 2 mobile medical centers in refugee camps
  • A children’s hospital
  • Medical Oxygen production facility
  • Distribution of tents and aid material
  • Treated almost 73,000 patients
  • Distributed aid to 14,000 displaced people
  • Provided mother and child healthcare to around 5,000 women

Our relief efforts around the region include:
In Iraq:

  • 2 Medical centers in camps for displaced people
  • 2 Mobile clinics
  • Distribution of aid material

In Lebanon:

  • 1 Mobile clinic
  • Support for Order of Malta medical and social facilities
  • Distribution of aid material

In Türkiye:

  • 1 Rehabilitation Hospital
  • 1 Community and Training Center
  • 2 Schools for Syrian Refugees