Access to healthcare for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon. The reproduction of a failed system?

October 20, 2016

Lebanon Support hosted a roundtable discussion on the 20th of October 2016,  on Syrian refugees’ access to healthcare in Lebanon. During this event, which was the third roundtable discussion of a series within our thematic project about the social effects of political & legal measures targeting Syrians in Lebanon, Miriam Younes (Karma) acted as our discussant. The event addressed the extent to which Syrian refugees are able to access health services.

Research findings show that although UNHCR’s aid is significant, too many costs remain for Syrian patients. Furthermore, the research analysed the impact of fragmented and highly privatised service provision, that, combined with ineffective cooperation between health actors and the lack of a referral or follow-up system, leave Syrian patients in a rather precarious situation. Moreover, the combination of expensive treatments and Syrian refugees’ insufficient access to livelihoods sometimes leads them to resort to dubious coping strategies.

Discussant Miriam Younes argued that the absence of a formal referral system is leading to delayed treatment or unsuccessful referral. Furthermore, she underlined the need for a comprehensive resettlement plan for emergency cases that need urgent treatment abroad – whether because of coverage issues, or because of the availability of the necessary treatment abroad and not in Lebanon. Lastly, the importance of psychosocial support during cancer treatment should be acknowledged. She also argued that these challenges are partly due to a lack of coordination and cooperation among institutions (NGOs, as well as UNHCR and donors) involved in the access of refugees to healthcare.

With this, discussants and participants at the roundtable acknowledged the need for a debate on this topic, as well as the fact that all actors in health realms – be it refugees, the ministry, UNHCR, NGOs or hospitals – have to cope with limited and constrained funding.

The discussion also revolved around challenges which seem to be inherent to the fragmented healthcare system. The issue of proper follow up and evaluation of interventions was raised as well as the need for effective coordination and common strategy between health actors.