September 20, 2013 — As conflict in Syria continues to escalate, the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has risen steadily. Currently, there are 752,120 Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that by the end of 2013, more than 1 million Syrians will have registered as refugees in Lebanon.
International Medical Corps, which has been working in Lebanon since the 2006 war, has provided a comprehensive response for Syrians in crisis from the outset of the Syria conflict. We are the largest health provider for Syrian refugees in Lebanon covering three of the four main geographical regions of the country - the North, Bekka and South of the Litani River. International Medical Corps continues to support the provision of primary health care services across Lebanon through 27 primary health care centers and six mobile medical units. In August, we provided 14,082 Syrian refugees with primary health care consultations. In addition, International Medical Corps has expanded rapidly to meet growing health needs with activities that spread beyond traditional geographic areas, such as at the Masnaa border crossing, where we responded to a rapid influx of Syrian refugees.
In order to continue promoting community mobilization and engagement within our response, International Medical Corps provided "Training of Trainers" sessions for 54 Syrian women with medical backgrounds in August. The six-day sessions covered a wide variety of topics, including mother and child health and displacement-related health topics. International Medical Corps will provide further training to selected women, who will then act as Community Health Educators, promoting health education and providing personal hygiene for refugee communities, particularly those located in informal tented settlements and collective shelters. This month, over 32,000 participants attended our health awareness sessions.
International Medical Corps continues to be a leader in the mental health field, providing case management, gender-based violence (GBV) services, and trainings for Syrian and Iraqi refugees and other vulnerable populations. At the end of July, International Medical Corps provided a two day mental health refresher training for 37 participants in south Lebanon. Two more trainings were held in Beirut in August for a total of 24 primary health care service providers. International Medical Corps continues to support 11 mental health case management teams, which are integrated into 16 hospitals, primary health clinic, and community centers across Lebanon. In August, International Medical Corps provided 3,332 case management services, including psychological and psychiatric consultations, of which 60% were for Syrian refugees. We also provided 41 GBV consultations.
Finally, International Medical Corps continues to provide Early Childhood Development (ECD) programs for vulnerable populations. In August, International Medical Corps completed an ECD program for Iraqi refugee families. Sixteen women attended 24 sessions in Beirut, focusing on topics such as maternal health and postpartum depression, developmental milestones, the importance of play, and mother and child nutrition. While women are typically targeted for ECD sessions as they are the primary caregivers in most families, International Medical Corps recognizes the role of fathers in child development. As such, International Medical Corps hosted a dinner in which whole families, including fathers, were invited to attend.
The U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and UNHCR have provided International Medical Corps with financial support to assist in programming over the past year. However, greater support for Lebanon is needed going forward. International Medical Corps will continue to engage with the Government of Lebanon, the UN, non-governmental organizations and the international community to highlight and address the dire needs of those seeking health assistance in Lebanon.
Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, International Medical Corps’ mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster, and disease, by delivering vital health care services and sustainable development projects that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance.