In Lebanon, mobile health clinics deployed as Beirut recuperates from the explosion

25 August 2020

Beirut residents receive support from a mobile medical unit run by Amel Association, with support from UNFPA.
Beirut residents receive support from a mobile health unit run by Amel Association, with support from UNFPA. © UNFPA Lebanon

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Weeks after a horrific explosion devastated the Lebanese capital, Beirut, scenes of collective action replace views of smouldering wreckage. Health care, food, water, and home repairs provided by community members and partner organizations have changed the city. In Lebanon, mobile health clinics have been an essential part of the response.

UNFPA operates mobile medical units with Al Makassed and Amel associations. The units provide life-saving medical care and reproductive health services to affected women. “After the explosion, a lot of help was sent to downtown, Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael. With our mobile medical units, we move where there is a need,” said a health coordinator with Amel Association.

The two mobile units are particularly important for women who cannot afford to pay for consultations or medicine at clinics. The mobile health clinics also benefitthose living in areas where health services have been disrupted by the blast. Each of the mobile units includes a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, paramedic, midwife and, sometimes, pediatrician.

An assessment team stands in a destroyed part of a hospital in Karantina. Around them are rubble and exposed rebar.
An assessment team visits Karantina Hospital, which was badly damaged by the explosion. © UNFPA Lebanon

“This is my second visit to the clinic to change the bandage on my wound. They have all I need here; I do not have to go to a hospital to do it,” said Diala. She suffered an injury in the disaster.

Immediate humanitarian assistance with mobile health units

The explosion and its aftermath crippled the city’s healthcare system. It left three of Beirut’s main hospitals and half its clinics inoperable. UNFPA and its partners were among the first on the scene, with their mobile units addressing immediate and basic needs.

“So far, we have provided wound dressing, nebulization and oxygen for people who’ve had respiratory problems, in addition to medicines and check-ups,” said Rania Zaatari, head of the community health bureau at Al Makassed.

Mobile clinics also provide sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception.

UNFPA is also partnering with a local NGO to support people living with HIV.

“We developed a support program, including a mobile unit that will do tests for HIV, syphilis and others,” said a UNFPA sexual and reproductive health specialist.

Focus on vulnerable communities

Government of Canada supported two mobile health clinics. Canada was UNFPA’s largest humanitarian donor in 2019.

Members of a Canadian delegation visit a mobile medical unit.
Members of a Canadian delegation speak to the staff of a mobile medical unit. © UNFPA Lebanon

With Canada, UNFPA was able to immediately reallocate funds to supply and deploy the medical units and personnel.

Now, UNFPA and its partners are planning longer-term support for the affected communities.

“We are going to be monitoring that closely because there’s immediate support already done, but one, two, three or four months from now, the impact [of the blast] will still be there,” said Jamie Schnurr, head of cooperation at the Embassy of Canada to Lebanon, visited the mobile health clinics last week as part of a Canadian delegation. “We have to be cognitive of the continuity [needed] as we move on to the subsequent phases.”

The planned response will be an inclusive one.

Canada’s Chargé d’affaires in Lebanon highlighted the importance of reaching vulnerable communities at a recent briefing on the response. “Hearing about disabled women, LGBT communities, and the way that services also need to reach them – in order to really have an impact and to make sure that everyone who has been impacted gets the treatment they need – is really outstanding,” he emphasized.

Click here to read UNFPA Lebanon’s Situation Report from August 27. originally published a version of this story.

Dana Kirkegaard
Your can support the recovery efforts of Beirut.

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