In the first few weeks since it opened its doors, 280 underprivileged children under the age of fourteen received access to health services at HCI’s recently launched Children’s Clinic in the Nahr el Bared camp. The clinic is managed by our local partners the National Institution of Social Care & Vocational Training organization. HCI fully equipped and staffed the clinic enabling it to provide the necessary health services to the children of the camp, thanks to a Canadian Medical Doctor that is a former resident of the camp.
Health is widely recognized as a cornerstone of human development because it underpins the gamut of human functioning. But health is also essential to human security, since survival and protection from illness are at the core of any concept of people’s wellbeing. The health of children in particular is at risk in the Palestinian camps where the availability of health care access to refugees is very limited. 95% of Palestinian refugees rely on assistance from the UNRWA, the Palestine Red Crescent Society and a myriad of informal civil society networks, in order to access healthcare. Palestinian healthcare in Lebanon is underfunded and chronically unfit for the needs of the refugee population.
According to a survey conducted in 2010 by the American University of Beirut and UNRWA, two-thirds of Palestinian refugees residing in Lebanon live below the poverty line. The inhabitants of The Nahr Al Bared camp in particular are even more marginalized; where five years after the 2007 conflict, the nearly 27,000 Palestinian refugees from the camp are still largely displaced in temporary accommodations in the nearby Beddawi camp, and in the NBC adjacent areas.
Much of the community remains predominantly reliant on international aid for survival. The refugees that have returned to the camp and those in adjacent areas have been profoundly affected by the prolonged displacement and depressed economy. A single case of acute illness can plunge a family deeper into poverty. Furthermore, a third of Palestine refugees living in Lebanon are known to suffer from chronic diseases such as cancer, hypertension or cardiac diseases.
Upon reviewing the situation, and as part of the ongoing effort to rebuild the Camp that commenced in November 2009 which involves the reconstruction of 5,223 homes and 1,969 commercial units,and the very recent return of the first batch of displaced families to the Camp, it was clear that HCI needed to intervene in the field of children’s health services. Our previous experience working in this field in the north of Lebanon was an asset to us; in 2008 we set up the Happiness Center Clinic, an early detection center for hearing imparities among children in public schools in the north of Lebanon, and before that we provided the Al Mona School for children with special needs children in Tripoli with much needed equipment.
In January, the most common ailments documented by the clinic were respiratory tract infections, gastro intestinal problems, and ear, nose and throat diseases among others. Out of the 280 visits, 241 were new patients and 39 were repeated visits. The resident doctors also refer patients to other free specialized health service providers when needed. The clinic is open Mondays to Thursdays from 8 am to 2 pm.
To date it is estimated that over 500 families that have recently returned have access to the Children’s Clinic and as more families return to reside in the camp (estimated of 1,100 families will return before the end of this year,) there will be an overwhelming need for health services, making our contribution even more invaluable. Our work to build healthy communities, families and individuals is at the heart of HCI’s vision for social change. By establishing this clinic we are helping build the means to improve child and newborn health, ensure proper nutrition and combat infectious diseases.