By Soraya Dali-Balta, IFRC
Aiming to highlight the efforts of the Palestine Red Crescent Society and its contributions to alleviating the suffering of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Syria, the National Society invited an international delegation of humanitarian workers on a field visit to two medical facilities in the country.
The visit was part of a partnership meeting held to shed light on the work of Palestine Red Crescent Society and the challenges volunteers and concerned National Societies, mainly the Lebanese Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, face in alleviating the sufferings of Palestinian refugees in the region. The delegation included members of several Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, in addition to representatives of humanitarian organisations concerned with the situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Syria.
Leaders and officials from Palestine Red Crescent Society branches in the occupied Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Syria, representatives from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), including Vice President Francesco Rocca, and Director of the Middle East and North Africa region Elias Ghanem, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’ (ICRC) Near and Middle East and Zone office Robert Mardini and Dominique Mathieu, the Cooperation Coordinator at the ICRC’s Beirut office, in addition to representatives of National Societies in the region and around the world.
The first stop in the field visit was Haifa Hospital in Beirut’s Bourj Al Barajneh refugee camp, the only health facility providing medical services to Palestinians in the area. The hospital was established in 1985 and consists of an emergency room, an intensive care unit, and several specialized departments including obstetrics and gynaecology and paediatrics, and has the capacity to treat up to 40 inpatients at a time.
The delegation then headed to southern Lebanon to visit Al Hamshari Hospital in Sidon. Established by the Lebanon branch of the Palestine Red Crescent Society in 1987, the hospital is the largest health facility catering to the needs of Palestinians in Lebanon, and is strategically located near Ain El Helwe, the country’s largest Palestinian refugee camp.
Al Hamshari has 80 beds, and operates 13 external clinics, a physical therapy unit, a dialysis unit, a delivery section and an intensive care unit, in addition to several specialized and fully equipped departments.
“With the availability of a limited number of beds in the ICU, sometimes we have no choice but to transfer patients to private hospitals which are costly and cannot be afforded by most Palestinian families,” said Dr Riyad Abo Al Aynein, General Director at the hospital.
Al Hamshari also hosts a medical library equipped with 10 computers, a meeting room, and a rich collection of medical books.
Haifa and Al Hamshari hospitals treat thousands of patients each year, and although established to serve Palestinian refugees, they welcome patients of all nationalities, including refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
Dr Khalid Joudeh, the Director General of the Palestine Red Crescent Society’s headquarters in the occupied Palestinian territories said the society would improve the reach and scale of its operations. “We are striving to provide the best medical services and treatments to the Palestinian people, whether in Lebanon or Syria,” he said.