© Mario Fawaz/MSF


As neighbouring conflicts continue to spiral, more than a quarter of Lebanon’s population is now made up of refugees, including over a million from Syria.

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

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.

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MSF’s work in Lebanon: 2018

More than a million people have fled into Lebanon since the conflict in neighbouring Syria began in 2011, making it the country with the largest number of refugees per capita in the world. 

Many refugees are living in deplorable conditions with their most basic needs unmet. The huge number of extra people in the country has put a severe strain on services, including the health sector. Even where healthcare is available, the cost of consultations, laboratory tests and medication is a barrier for refugees, as well as for migrants and economically and socially vulnerable Lebanese.

Médecins Sans Frontières continues to work across Lebanon to provide these communities with free, quality medical assistance such as treatment for non-communicable diseases, sexual and reproductive healthcare, mental healthcare and maternity services. In 2018, we expanded our projects to offer specialist services, such as paediatric intensive care, treatment for thalassemia and general elective surgery. 

Bekaa Valley 

In Bekaa and Baalbek-Hermel, where the majority of Syrian refugees have settled, we offer primary healthcare in Hermel, Aarsal, Baalbek and Majdal Anjar. 

© Amy Neilson

We have teams working in two mother and child health centres in Aarsal and Majdal Anjar, and run a specialised paediatrics programme in Zahle, which includes emergency consultations, paediatric intensive care and treatment for thalassemia. 

We completed the rehabilitation of a hospital in Bar Elias in July, and towards the end of the year started providing chronic wound care and general elective surgery. 


In addition, we supported the Ministry of Public Health to vaccinate 22,000 children against measles and polio in Zahle, Baalbek and Hermel. 

Northern Lebanon and Akkar 

We offer essential primary healthcare in Wadi Khaled, as well as mental health support in a clinic in Fneideq, for both Syrian refugees and the local community. 

In Tripoli and Al Abdeh, we continued to offer chronic diseases care and family planning services. In 2018 we implemented the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme* adopted by the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health, training general practitioners so that they can prescribe medication when necessary, under the supervision of an external psychiatrist. 

South Beirut 

Since September 2013, we have been managing a primary healthcare centre and a women’s centre in Shatila refugee camp, where Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese and people of various other nationalities live in poor, overcrowded conditions with limited services. 

We launched a vaccination campaign around Sabra and Shatila in March in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health, vaccinating around 10,000 children against measles and polio, and opened a birthing centre at Rafik Hariri University Hospital in July. Our teams here assist deliveries and treat neonatal referrals from our Shatila clinic. 

In Burj-al-Barajneh refugee camp, we run family planning and mental healthcare services, and operate a home-based care programme for patients with chronic diseases who have mobility problems. 

South Lebanon 

We also operate a home-based care programme in Ein-al-Hilweh refugee camp, in Saida, for patients with mobility problems, and continue to support medical personnel in the camp to improve their emergency preparedness and response plan so they can stabilise any injured people caught up in violence. 

*WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP)


find out more in our international activity report >

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