As part of our support to Syrian refugee camp schools in Lebanon, we recently funded a much needed medical trip to provide basic check-ups and treatment for the children and their parents in the camps in the Bekaa Valley.
The two doctors who went were Colin Tourle and Alison Beadsworth from our medical partner Iasis. They have worked with us for over 20 years, with children in many different situations across the globe. Despite having helped on 51 of these trips, Colin described this week helping Syrian refugees as one of the most dramatic. He explained that although he has worked in places such as post earthquake Haiti and famine areas of Ethiopia, he has never encountered people so afraid and traumatised, having gone through the horrors of war, losing their homes, friends and family members.
Some of the effects of war are unexpected. Colin told the story of a boy they treated with terrible burns over his legs and lower torso. The injuries were originally from spilled boiling water in a simple accident at home in Syria, but when his father took him to be treated in the hospital it was bombed and they were pushed on to the street. They walked for three days to get out of the country, all the time with this boy enduring terrible pain from untreated burns. Colin describes how the lack of treatment at the time has meant the burn has not healed properly, “it is mostly scar tissue and the build up of this tissue behind his knees makes movement difficult. We have given him ointment to soften this skin, and some exercises to start to stretch it again to enable better movement”.
Alison treated a lady who had been chopping up vegetables for dinner when her house was bombed and a knife flew into her eye. Both these instances really bring home how these are ordinary people living out their everyday lives that are being devastated by war. The main bulk of the work done by Iasis whilst they were there however, was treating complaints that arise from the conditions of the refugee camps. Basic tents and supplies for the camps are well provided by the UN but there are still open sewers and food and employment is scarce.
Alison and Colin arrived well stocked with the medicines they needed for common skin and stomach conditions that tend to result from poor hygiene and living conditions. Most medical conditions that are occurring are easily treatable, but access to the right drugs is difficult here. Nurses from our partner organisation go in each week, but finding volunteer doctors in Lebanon is difficult, making trips like this invaluable.
Families share makeshift tents with just a thin tarpaulin between them so there is little privacy or space. It was in these ‘homes’ that Colin and Alison were welcomed to set up little clinics each day. “The hospitality of the Syrian refugee community was incredible’ described Alison, “they had so little, yet they were warm, loving and generous with what they had”. Colin went on to tell how one lady broke off sprigs from a basil plant she kept outside her tent for each of them, just to say thank you. It was all she had to give.
Our local partners are doing a fantastic job living and working alongside this heartbroken community, and the two camp schools are going from strength to strength. There is much more to be done though, and when winter comes our real concern is keeping people warm. If you can donate to this work it would really help. You can find out more details about the project here.