A severe shortfall in international support has left many Syrian refugees in Lebanon unable to access crucial medical care, according to a new report from Amnesty International.
“In some cases, refugees have preferred to return to Syria, to receive the needed treatment” in spite of the dangerous security situation there, the report, entitled Agonizing Choices: Syrian refugees in need of health care in Lebanon, said.
The situation is fast becoming desperate. A lack in vaccines for Syrian newborns in Lebanon is putting lives in danger, said Bashar Farhat, a Syrian doctor working in the east of Lebanon, told The Wall Street Journal.
Dr. Farhat, who helped Amnesty gather information for its report, said in an interview on the sidelines of this week’s press conference: “What is really very dangerous is the fact that new born generations (of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon) are not receiving basic health care, such as vaccines. Moreover, they are facing severe malnutrition”.
Dr. Farhat warned “this will lead to dangerous and catastrophic health cases in the future”.
Syrian refugees in Lebanon are suffering as a direct result of the international community’s shameful failure to fully fund the U.N. relief program in Lebanon, Audrey Gaughran, director of global thematic issues at Amnesty International, said in the report.
Lebanon’s health system is largely privatized and therefore too costly for most refugees. Many rely on services subsidized by the U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR. These organizations have been forced to introduce a restrictive set of criteria for people in need of hospital treatment.
According to UNHCR data, the number of Syrian and Syrian Palestinian refugees in Lebanon has reached 1.07 million, but only 1.01 million are registered. The Amnesty report also excludes some 50,000 registered Syrian Palestinians with the U.N.’s Relief and Works Agency.
In the hall where this week’s press conference was held, a Syrian Palestinian refugee living in the Ain El-Helwe Palestinian camp near Saida (South Lebanon), asked Amnesty representatives: “Should we turn into terrorists so that the world start noticing us?”.
“Syria is nowadays the world’s largest producer of refugees” said Khairunissa Dhala, a researcher on one of Amnesty International’s teams working on the exile issue. “Lebanon is the country in the world hosting the highest number of refugees”.
Ms. Dhala shared the story of Arif, a 12-year-old boy, who had suffered severe burns on his legs and was under the supervision of Dr. Farhat, explaining that “his burns turned septic and his legs became infected” because under UNHCR’s current guidelines he doesn’t qualify for subsidized care.
But in spite of the miserable situation, Dr. Farhat said “besieged Palestinians inside Syria who are under direct danger of war still consider being a refugee in Lebanon is a dream coming true”. “For them talking about bad access to health care in Lebanon is a vanity they cannot afford”.
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(via WSJ Blogs)