Over 50% of Syria refugees in Lebanon lack medical care: MSF

More than half of the estimated 300,000 Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon are not receiving the medical treatment they need because of high costs, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Thursday.

In a report entitled "Misery beyond the war zone," MSF gave the results of a survey carried out in the southern city of Sidon, the eastern Bekaa Valley and the northern city of Tripoli, where its teams are providing free medical care.

Syrian refugees, as well as Palestinian refugees and Lebanese nationals fleeing the embattled country, have "profound humanitarian needs that are not being met" said MSF, whose report covered registration issues and access to medical care and lodging.

More than 50 percent of those interviewed, whether officially registered as refugees or not, were housed in substandard structures with little to no protection from the elements and the rest were struggling to pay rent after losing their livelihoods.

And more than half could not afford treatment for chronic diseases, and nearly one-third had to suspend treatment because of high costs.

"For those who are and are not registered alike, the costs attached to essential primary health care, ante-natal care and institutional deliveries are prohibitive," it said.

The MSF said that nearly two-thirds of unregistered refugees and Lebanese returnees received no assistance whatsoever from any NGO and emphasised that registration itself was difficult.

"Forty-one percent of the interviewees said they were not registered, mainly because they lacked information on how and where to register or the registration points were too far away.

"Others worried that they did not have proper legal papers and would be therefore sent back to Syria," it said.

According to the UNRWA refugee agency, more than 172,000 Syrian refugees are registered in Lebanon, 88,582 others are being processed, while another 50,000 are estimated to be in the country without attempting to formally register.

Even among those who were registered, barriers remained to medical care: "Roughly one in four said they had not received any assistance, while 65 percent said they had received only partial assistance that did not cover the families’ needs."

The MSF acknowledged the importance of registration and called on authorities to "accelerate the establishment of reception centres and the immediate availability of collective shelters".

A critical change since a last MSF survey in June was that the number of refugees hosted by Lebanese families had plummeted.