Whilst international powers are trying to come to a diplomatic solution over the crisis in Syria, a humanitarian crisis is spiralling out of control in Syria’s neighbouring state of Lebanon. Despite millions of dollars in aid, Lebanon is struggling to cope with the number of Syrians in need of medical care and refuge.
According to the UN, there are currently over 750,000 Syrian refugees registered in the country and over 100,000 are awaiting registration. Around half of those forced to leave are children, say UN agencies, with about three-quarters of them under 11. In response to Lebanon’s generosity in welcoming refugees fleeing Syria, US President Barack Obama has pledged tens of millions of dollars in aid to help offset the costs of the crisis.
During the United Nations General Assembly on 24th September Obama announced that the US would give $339 million in additional humanitarian aid in response to Syria’s crisis, including $74 million for Lebanon. Obama also announced that the US would send $8.7 million to help Lebanon’s military protect its borders against terrorist threats. However with the strain of more than a quarter of Lebanon’s population now made up of Syrian refugees, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman has had to call on UN member states to pledge even more financial aid to assist in dealing with the crisis.
Despite the aid available to refugees, medical expenses in government hospitals are the responsibility of the Lebanese state through the ministry of health and the medical expenses are higher than ever. Hospitals may have opened their doors to all patients in need of medical care but with the Syrian refugee population growing by the day, there are not enough beds for many Lebanese patients.
In the UN General Assembly the conference addressed Lebanon’s deteriorating economic conditions, the rising number of Syrian refugees in the country and the support needed for the Lebanese Army to improve border security. President Michel Suleiman said that the Syrians should withdraw from Lebanon and respect the Baabda Declaration, an agreement signed by rival groups last year during a National Dialogue session that calls for distancing Lebanon from regional turmoil, particularly the crisis in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon’s interest lies in maintaining distance and refraining from interference in Syria and I hope that everyone commits to that and the Baabda Declaration by withdrawing from Syria.Michel SuleimanPresident
‘We used to treat 10 Syrians a day, and now it’s a hundred’ says Dr Gazi Ta’al, Chief Medical Officer at one of the clinics of the Rafik Hariri Foundation in Beirut. Despite subsidised healthcare there are still many people being left untreated, Dr Gazi Ta’al says ‘we are now treating fewer Lebanese’.
Nayla Tueni, one of the few elected female Lebanese politicians, says ‘the economy is deteriorating amid the current circumstances and Lebanon will not be able to contain all of these refugees if the Syrian crisis is not resolved soon.’
The humanitarian crisis is a growing concern for the Lebanese government and is a problem that is getting worse by the day with the ever growing influx of Syrian refugees. There are not enough places in schools for the Syrian children and as a result many are becoming homeless on the streets of the Lebanese capital Beirut. UN officials say there are now about 400,000 Syrians of school age but only 100,000 extra places.
The Syrian crisis has already caused the deaths of many thousands of people but this byproduct of thousands of homeless children and those in need of medical attention being left more destitute than ever will be a much more difficult problem to solve.