News from Lebanon: Filling the gap

Heather Stanley, our Digital Comnunications Manager, reports again from Lebanon.

There’s a phrase I have heard many times as we visit our Christian partners in Lebanon; they say they need help ‘filling the gap’.

Alongside the Lebanese population who have been through difficult times to say the least, Iraqi, Syrian, Armenian, Sudanese and Palestinian people live here in their millions. Many are not given access to support and some are even prevented from seeking certain types of employment, sometimes any job at all. The cost of living is spiralling upwards and the Lebanese healthcare, education and welfare systems are essentially broken, unable to cope with the increasing population.  

Projects get limited funding from the government and the UN, there is a widening ‘gap’ between that funding and the amount of money and resources needed to deliver even the most basic of services for poor Lebanese and the variety of people who have settled in the country. 

Embrace is supporting projects that are aiming to fill that gap.

I visited Karagheusian Medical Centre in the heart of Bourj Hammoud, a particularly poor suburb of Beirut with a mix of Armenian and Lebanese people.  Over 150,000 people live in less than a square mile; it is one of the most densely populated areas in the whole of the Middle East.

The medical centre situated in the heart of Bourj Hammoud, provides a range of healthcare provision to help families be healthy in mind and body. In the centre, I met people waiting for treatment including babies getting immunised, children having dental check-ups, mums-to-be receiving pre-natal care and many more.

I spoke to a 36-year-old woman from Syria, who told me with tears in her eyes, just how much the centre helps her and her family. ‘My husband was a mechanic in Syria, but he cannot work here, and anyway, he has problems with his liver, and severe back pain. But the centre helped him so much. He’s 45 years old and didn’t qualify for any help anywhere else, but here he got help. They even helped us register so we can get some state help – we didn’t know how to do that before.’

The centre director, Serop, tells me that, even after treating as many as they can for free, and giving discounts to more, ‘filling the gap’ is still a huge challenge.

 ‘The gap is our biggest emerging need. Before the Syrian crisis began we were receiving 500 patients a month who needed help. Now we see over 4000 a month. Our social workers find more people in Bourj Hammoud in need of help every day.  And they are all very vulnerable, needing primary healthcare services.

‘It is a huge load for our staff. We have a dentist, midwives, gynaecologists, cardiologist and social workers as well as many other specialities.

‘But if a doctor orders a test or prescribes a drug, often only three-fifths are paid for by the state or the UN and the patient must find the rest. Even for things like having a baby, they will not always have enough money.

‘Can you imagine, not having enough money to pay to go into a hospital to deliver your baby?’

‘And then along comes Embrace,’ Serop says! ‘You help us close the gap. Take the pharmacy; we can offer prescriptions to more people who need it, which we wouldn’t be able to do without your support.’

‘I can hardly imagine where the people would go for healthcare if we weren’t here. They would remain without assistance and care or wait for a very, very long time.

I asked Serop if there was anything specific we could pray for, and he said: ‘It is all about prayer, not just money and resources. I don’t have the answers to the problems; we don’t know what will happen next but we will keep doing our part. Every day I rely on God and I say to Him, “God, how are You going to help this family?” And He always finds a way.

‘So please pray for the medical professionals here, the staff and especially the social workers who are so key to what we do, going out into the community and finding people in need who may not yet know about us.’

So please pray for the centre, the team and especially for the gap to be closed.