By Rick McNeal September 13, 2022 Recently we announced Medical Teams is transitioning away from its programming in Lebanon, a place where we’ve been present since 2013. For nearly a decade, Medical Teams delivered crucial care to refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and helped establish and strengthen health systems. Not only that, our teams trained refugee volunteers as community health workers to provide services such as health education and medical screenings to their neighbors, and we also made a staff psychologist available to those struggling with mental health issues. It would be impossible to recount all the incredible work our teams have done and introduce you to the amazing people we’ve met along the way. Still, we celebrate the people who made Medical Teams programs in Lebanon possible and are humbled by the lives we touched. Timeline: Medical Teams in Lebanon Our primary strategy in Lebanon was strengthening community health and health systems by reducing the incidence and impact of common diseases, improving mental health and strengthening referral systems for Syrian refugees living in informal settlements. To date, our team and over 130 volunteers served more than 43,000 refugees in 136 informal settlements in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley — every month that translates to about 3,000 medical monitoring visits, 4,000 health session attendees, and 50 mental health patients. Here’s an abbreviated history of our work in Lebanon. 2013 – 2015 Mazen and friends Mobile medical units provided direct health services in 32 settlements and monitored non-communicable diseases. Children (15 years old and younger) received dental work. 2016 – 2017 Medical Teams supported a primary health clinic by subsidizing the cost of consultations and diagnostic tests. Refugee outreach volunteers began monitoring non-communicable diseases through household visits in 120 settlements. An outreach volunteer leads an educational health session 2018 – 2019 Senior refugee outreach volunteers began providing community health awareness sessions. Mental health programming began through awareness sessions, individual consultations, psychosocial support groups and referrals. 2020 – 2022 Aftermath of explosion in Beirut Medical Teams responds to a massive explosion in Beirut with outreach services, distribution of hygiene kits and medical supplies; and supported the shipment of medicines and supplies for local health providers to restock the items destroyed. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Medical Teams increased awareness on preventative measures and referral systems. Medical Teams staff in Lebanon Khalil Zarzour served as country manager in Lebanon for Medical Teams since 2018. We asked him about the impact Medical Teams had in the refugee community: “I believe that Medical Teams was able to impact different vulnerable groups as we served children, women, and the elderly. We didn’t only provide a service, we empowered them to take care of themselves and they will carry this through a lifetime.” As Khalil reflected on his time with Medical Teams, he was incredibly proud of the team he worked with. “The love and respect we show to the people we serve can’t be described by words. The outreach volunteers discovered their inner powers and capacity with the support of the team; and mostly I am proud of the positive reputation we built among NGOs and refugees, the trust we got from headquarters, donors’ feedback after each visit, and finally having such a great image and reputation despite being a small team and office.” One of our favorite employee stories from Medical Teams Lebanon is Christina, whose heart and dedication we featured in a recent video: “By helping people we’re not only restoring their feelings of being human, we’re restoring ours as well.” Medical Teams stories of impact in Lebanon Over the years, we’ve heard many stories of how our work made a difference in the lives of Syrian refugees. Here are a few of our favorites (with links to read more). Shaza Sixteen-year-old Shaza lived in Syria with her family before bombing destroyed their town and forced them to flee to Lebanon. There, Shaza found life as a refugee difficult and almost lost hope. Eventually, she found purpose in volunteering with Medical Teams and now makes a difference in her community. Excerpt: Shaza is a young Syrian woman whose life was turned upside down. War destroyed her home and extinguished her dreams. As we sit inside a tent in a refugee settlement in Lebanon, I’m instantly drawn to her quiet strength. With courage, she shares her story of what was once a rich and promising life. Read more… Mazen Young Mazen was rushed to the hospital after becoming ill and unresponsive. There, he was treated for and diagnosed with diabetes. Once stable, Mazen was released and returned home to his family. Medical Teams then taught Mazen’s family about diabetes and how to manage and monitor the condition. Mazen (left) and his older brother (right) Excerpt: Mazen’s father had to experience what every father fears. One day, his only son suddenly felt very ill and was not responding. Read more… Samira Like Shaza, Samira found purpose in working with Medical Teams to provide care for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. As a program manager, she oversaw staff and volunteers, including mental health workers, community health promoters and refugee outreach volunteers. One of the most important things Samira did was collect feedback from the communities we served to better understand their needs and provide the best service possible. Excerpt: “Being part of Medical Teams International gives me a chance to see and look after the refugees. It is hard to describe with words the effect of the conflict on the Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. It was terrible for them, coming to a land that was not theirs.” Read more… Ibrahim Medical Teams met four-year-old Ibrahim and his mother in 2021. Ibrahim was diagnosed with diabetes two years earlier, but his family struggled to access the equipment and treatment he needed. After learning about our refugee outreach volunteers, Ibrahim’s mother moved the family to a settlement where he now receives the care he needs, such as monitoring his glucose levels. Additionally, we provided nutrition education to Ibrahim’s mother to help navigate the best nutrition for Ibrahim. Ibrahim’s mother said: “I hope that one day I can leave this place and return home. I want to give my Ibrahim everything I can and make his future as good as it can be.” We celebrate Medical Teams in Lebanon We were blessed to serve alongside so many talented and caring individuals and witness the life-saving impact they had on refugee communities. Medical Teams was able to make a difference in Lebanon, but there is still work to do. Khalil sums up the ongoing situation best: “Everyone needs to know that refugees were seeking safety and they still are. Refugees are deprived of their basic rights and even their basic needs. When thinking of their current situation, I see that they are reliving the insecurity again with the economic crisis in Lebanon, absorbing more tensions as the vulnerability rate among Lebanese is very high now, and they are highly in need of support and prayers. So, they can restore hope again.” Thank you to the many staff, volunteers, donors and refugees who let Medical Teams be a part of your story. Medical Teams’ work in Lebanon was made possible through the generous support of Humedica International Aid.