#VolunteerDiaries: Dr. Siyana Visits Lebanon - an urgent humanitarian crisis
Refugees in Lebanon face insurmountable barriers to affordable, accessible healthcare, and the sick, disabled and most vulnerable are falling through the cracks. ‘Team Kitrinos’ are now providing essential medical aid to refugees in Arsal, a Lebanese town across the border from Syria. The Arsal camps hold 15,000 people in dire conditions, struggling to survive in drafty, leaking and sometimes even moldy tarpaulin tents.
Founder of Kitrinos Healthcare, Dr. Siyana Mahroof-Shaffi, and our long-term Doctor Tomáš Šimonek, have travelled to Lebanon to visit those living in the camps and offer desperately-needed medical aid...
#VolunteerDiaries: Dr. Siyana Visits Lebanon Part I: Camp Nakheel
After arriving in the camp, our first priority was a tent-by-tent visit to assess the residents' needs.
We met a lovely woman - a grandmother - who had just lost her father in Syria and unsurprisingly was dealing with severe uncontrolled hypertension. She was at a high risk of having a stroke, and urgently needed her ineffective high blood pressure treatment to be changed. The local doctor had left her with a hefty bill and had requested further tests. She was incredibly worried about dying of a stroke or paralysis like her own father did.
Following our tent visits yesterday we decided to set up an impromptu clinic today. Immediately, about 50 people gathered outside the doors with much gratitude. Although MSF (free) and local clinics (paid) are seeing patients, the majority of medicines being given are on paper prescriptions, which cost more than most can afford. The cheap, non-branded medicines - even without prescriptions - are no longer available. Simple Panadol (paracetamol) costs around £1.50 even for kids, which is a lot of money for people who get paid £37 per month from the UN if they’re lucky - some don’t even get that.
Due to the financial crisis in Lebanon, there is a push for all Syrians to return to Syria. All Syrian motorbikes and cars found in this region are now being confiscated or destroyed, and all Syrians, even those who have been granted asylum, are forbidden from undertaking paid work.
You tell me: how are they supposed to live?
They do somehow, with the strongest belief that ‘God will provide’. They feel forgotten by all humankind and have no choice but to rely totally and entirely on the divine.
Another busy day. There are almost no medical services inside these camps, especially at weekends.
We provided pain relief for 28-year-old ‘I’*, who is all by himself here and crippled with left-sided paralysis as surgeons have deemed it too dangerous to operate on the shrapnel lodged deep in his brain. *names shortened to protect patients' identities
We prescribed several courses of antibiotics for chest and urine infections - particularly in children and the elderly. One 10-year-old boy had been coughing at night for several months and his mother disclosed he was repeatedly wetting the bed. Concerningly, we discovered he had sugar in his urine. We started him on an inhaler for his chest, but he’ll need urgent investigations for diabetes, and will most likely require insulin injections.
We also treated a man who had just been discharged after surgery: he’d been hit by a car and broken bones in three places. He was at risk of blood clots and infection, so we provided antibiotics and tablets for blood thinning while he was immobile.
At the end of the day, after we’d closed the clinic, we were visited by a young woman who had just returned from the hospital after falling on a concrete floor in her hut and sustaining a fractured wrist. She was in great pain and had to wait two days for surgery to pin the wrist. We supplied her with the strongest painkillers we had.
Although all our patients are important, the one who stood out in my mind was 15-year-old ‘K’, who was living with the serious, life-long condition of haemophilia. He was an orphan, and was being brought up by his caring and diligent grandmother. They had almost run out of the lifesaving injections which prevent him from bleeding uncontrollably. These injections cost a lot and need to be administered at least every 10-15 days. Unfortunately, his previous donor can no longer afford the injections, so he is in need of long-term sponsorship. Due to his fragility, he has limited mobility and can’t go out much, meaning he’ll also need supplementary vitamin D.
Every single donation matters, no matter how small. These are very humble people whose most basic needs are not being met, and they urgently need your support.
~ Dr Siyana, Dr Tomáš, Nurse Safa and Noor
We all have a responsibility to advocate for the lives and welfare of those people the world has forgotten about. As little as £1 helps us provide vital medicine to refugees in desperate need. Please donate to our Lebanon appeal today:
Thank you so much to all who have donated so far.
Watch this space for Part II of #VolunteerDiaries: Dr. Siyana Visits Lebanon.
Best wishes for the week ahead,