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Australia supports health care for refugees with chronic illnesses

News and Press Release
Originally published
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27 January 2012

“It’s been a long time since I greeted anyone, because my hands weren’t able to move.”

With these words, Jamilah received us with a big smile on her face. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997, the Palestine refugee mother and housewife living in Lebanon faced difficulty getting treatment.

“Because it was so expensive, I was only able to access medicine for three years. After that, I had to abandon the treatment because my family couldn’t bear the burden anymore. In the end, life is about priorities.”

After spending 10 years without treatment, Jamilah’s health deteriorated and she lost feeling in her hands and feet. Confined to a wheelchair, she was unable to move or attend to herself or her family.

UNRWA expands tertiary health care
Because of stories like Jamilah’s, UNRWA expanded its tertiary health care services for refugees living with chronic illnesses. As of last year, Jamilah receives preferential prices for her medicine, and only pays 20 per cent of the already reduced cost.

Almost immediately, Jamilah began to feel improvements in her hand movements. “I am happy today,” says Jamilah with a smile. “My family is happy, and my children missed eating my food, prepared with my own hands. I have very high hopes that I will improve more as I continue the treatment.”

Refugees thank Australia for support
The expansion of tertiary health care services for refugees with chronic illnesses was one of many UNRWA initiatives that the Government of Australia supported, through a voluntary donation of AUD 500,000. With this support, UNRWA was able to increase its coverage for tertiary hospitalisation, benefiting over 2500 patients in Lebanon alone.

“I thank everyone who contributed to these services,” says Jamilah. “Any amount, no matter how much, makes a big difference in our lives.”