Between emotional support and physical suffering
by Anna Schappert/LKO, 2013/04/29
Still, the devastating civil war in Syria causes millions of people to flee to the neighbour country of Lebanon. In the terribly overcrowded refugee camps, they are forced to live in conditions of extreme poverty and little space. With mobile clinics, humedica teams provide urgently-needed medical aid to physically and emotionally suffering refugees.
The German doctor Anna Schappert from Mainz is currently on her first medical mission abroad with humedica and would like to give you an account of the current situation and the health status of the needy Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
“By now I’ve been working in the east of Lebanon as a member of a humedica team for one week. With our mobile clinics, we travel to different refugee camps every day and, in each camp, tend to 60-80 patients.
In the past week, we mostly treated young people with skin and worm infections as well as headaches and joint pains. Due to the late beginning of spring and the long and wet cold period, there is a high incidence of respiratory and influenza-like infections. Luckily, serious illnesses are quite rare.
When we diagnose patients with chronic diseases like diabetes or asthma, we send them to health care centres in the Lebanon where, for a low consultation fee equivalent to about one euro, they receive the necessary medication.
Apart from physical ailments, the Syrian refugees suffer emotionally due to the prevalent conditions of poverty and despair and the traumatic experiences they have gone through. While in adult patients this emotional distress often expresses itself in chronic pains, children tend to suffer from inexplicable symptoms like hair loss and urinary incontinence.
For these people it is often important that we are simply there and listen to their sorrows. The emotional distress related to not knowing how long the crisis in Syria will last and when they will be able to return to their homes adds to the physical suffering of the displaced Syrians.
The refugee camps have mostly been set up on fields, and the refugees, most of whom have already spent more than a year there, pay a common contribution to the Lebanese farmers who own the territory.
Autonomous structures have developed in the refugee camps. Each camp has a leader who acts as a contact person for us and whose tent we can usually use as a treatment room.
The tent offers space for an examination table where the humedica doctors and translators take a seat. Apart from that, there is space for a little dispensary where we hand out medication to the patients and treat their wounds. During the consultation hours, we are always offered tea and coffee by the committed wives of the camp leaders.
At the end of a long working day, our ears are often ringing due to the little space and the continuing level of noise. Yet the gratitude of these people, their readiness to help, the laughing children and their eagerness to help us with reloading our medication, easily make us forget all the stress.”