An unprecedented sandstorm has finally started to settle down after waging across Lebanon and other Middle East countries for the past four to five days. Reports say as many as 6 people died and more than 2,600 were hospitalized for breathing-related ailments. Although the storm caused problems in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Cyprus, Lebanon endured the worst of the storm. Schools were shut, people were advised to stay indoors and flights were canceled due to poor visibility.
Today, International Medical Corps assists Lebanon with handling the needs of over 1 million Syrian refugees who seek protection from violence and insecurity in their own country. Syrian refugees in Lebanon were greatly affected by the storm. Because there are no official refugee camps in Lebanon, many Syrian refugees have settled in informal tented communities with only limited protections from the dust. International Medical Corps’ programs in southern and northern Lebanon continued to provide services despite difficulties caused by the storm. International Medical Corps mobile medical units provide much needed medical care in the tent settlements where access to basic services is difficult. “Syrian refugees were deeply affected by the storm, especially in the Bekaa valley. Our team took two refugees who suffered from inhalation of dust particles to hospital," said Muzna Shihabi, the Middle East regional communications officer for International Medical Corps, "On Wednesday, a tent was blown over by heavy wind in Anfa informal settlement, close to Tripoli. Our field staff helped them rebuild a new tent.”
International Medical Corps has been working in Lebanon since the war in the summer of 2006. After the ceasefire, International Medical Corps assisted in reconstruction efforts and maintained a strong presence in the country providing services to Iraqi refugee populations through 2011. Immediately following the influx of Syrian refugees into the country in 2011, International Medical Corps began expanding programming to meet their health and mental health needs.