Lebanon is struggling to cope with its intake of Syrian refugees

The saying goes that whenever it rains in Syria, the Lebanese have to open their umbrellas. This now rings more true than ever before.



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In its heyday, comparisons were often made of the small Mediterranean country with Switzerland because of its economic power and diversity.

But today, it is struggling to cope. The civil war in Syria is putting a colossal strain on its neighbours, including Lebanon whose population stands at just four million.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been working in Lebanon since 1976, when we began our response to the 15 year civil war.

Today, we are helping those seeking refuge from one of the worst conflicts in modern history.



MSF’s work in Lebanon: 2016

More than 1.5 million Syrians have fled into Lebanon since the conflict began in 2011, making Lebanon and Jordan the countries hosting the largest proportion of refugees in the world.

This influx of Syrian refugees has further strained the country’s economy and infrastructure and this is particularly felt in the health sector.

The Lebanese Ministry of Public Health is supporting primary and secondary healthcare centres to respond to the needs of Syrian refugees.

Despite these efforts, the cost of consultations, laboratory tests, and medication remains a barrier for a significant number of refugees.

This reality has prompted MSF to continue providing medical assistance to Syrian refugees and vulnerable communities in Lebanon. 

© Amy Neilson


Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in 2011, we have continued to expand our medical response and provide emergency assistance to Syrian refugees (irrespective of registration status), Lebanese and Lebanese returnees, Palestinian Syrians and Syrian refugees.

We work in the north of Lebanon, the Bekaa valley, south Beirut and Saida, offering free, high quality primary healthcare, including treatment for acute and chronic diseases, reproductive services, mental health support and health promotion activities.

Our teams also run three mother and child health centres across the country.

South Beirut

Since September 2013, MSF has been managing a primary healthcare centre and a mother and child health centre in Shatila refugee camp, where over 30,000 refugees are living in deplorable conditions, just four kilometres from the city centre.

In Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp, also located in a southern suburb of Beirut, MSF has opened a health centre providing sexual and reproductive health services, including treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, mental healthcare and health promotion activities.

In May, the team launched a home-based care programme for patients with chronic diseases who suffer from mobility problems.


In the Bekaa Valley, where the majority of refugees have settled, we provide primary healthcare through four clinics in Hermel, Aarsal, Baalbek and Majdal Anjar for Syrian refugees and the local community.

There are also mother and child health centres in Aarsal and Majdal Anjar.

In December, we opened a chronic diseases care centre in Bar Elias to improve treatment coverage for the most vulnerable people in the area.

North Lebanon

We run five primary healthcare centres in Akkar and Tripoli governorates for Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese, offering treatment for acute and chronic diseases, reproductive healthcare, mental health counselling, vaccinations and health promotion activities.

In February, in response to the growing medical and social needs of the vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian refugee communities living near the border in east Akkar, we started to work in Wadi Khaled and Akroum.

From February to July, we supported the minor trauma unit in Al-Makassed primary health centre in Hiche.

In September, the project shifted focus to concentrate on primary healthcare services, particularly the treatment of chronic diseases and mental healthcare in Wadi Khaled and Akroum.


A team continues to offer primary healthcare in Ein-el-Hilweh camp, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.

Today there are around 100,000 Palestinians, Palestinian refugees from Syria and Syrian refugees living there. 

Find out more in our International Activity Report


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