Providing Critical Healthcare Services to Beirut’s Elderly Population

As Lebanon continues to grapple with devastating economic and health crises, elderly residents of Beirut face dire challenges. The lack of strong social support networks and retirement plans have created massive gaps in health coverage for Beirut’s elder population. Many elderly residents live alone and suffer from physical disabilities that make it difficult for them to travel and access services. Among the elderly, there are many who are unregistered refugees facing additional hurdles to accessing care due to their legal status. Lebanon’s inability to finance the import of medical supplies has also led to severe shortages of medications needed to treat chronic conditions.  

The Beirut port explosion on August 4th, 2020, has further exacerbated the health crisis by injuring more than 6,500 people and displacing 300,000 residents. The blast also damaged six major hospitals, half of which were completely incapacitated, and damaged or destroyed 23 primary health centers. Hundreds of elderly residents are currently living in extreme poverty without food or shelter. According to UN Women, mental health hotlines reported a significant increase in calls from elderly people contemplating suicide following the traumatic blast and econimic collapse. To address the crisis, MedGlobal launched an initiative to provide at-home medical care visits for elderly patients who have minimal or no access to healthcare, with support from the Stirling Foundation.

“The elderly people here were very affected by the blast and are also affected by the economic crisis and COVID-19 pandemic. There are multiple financial, security, and health problems facing these people.”

Dr. Elie Stefan, Saint George Hospital University Medical Center

MedGlobal is partnering with Loubnaniyoun, a local NGO, to hire a geriatrician and nurse to conduct home health visits to elderly patients. The program focuses on low-income residents of Beirut over the age of 60 with physical difficulties or impairments that prevent easy access to health facilities. The program prioritizes patients with chronic conditions and those who are not currently receiving support from other organizations. Program staff have provided health exams, imaging and lab services, medications, psychosocial support services, and follow-up visits. The program has reached over 330 patients. MedGlobal will additionally provide training to young volunteers on how to work with elderly people and respond to their needs. 

“Since our daily Beirut blast activities and assistance program, we met many elderly people in need of somebody to help take care of their health. Either left alone or with poor children to take care of them, their health is put aside since the primary needs are to eat and afford a minimum standard of living. But the surprise of Loubnaniyoun’s team was tremendous as we are measuring the impact of this project. Through this project the elderly are given the chance to have a medical checkup and assessment, to do blood or radiology tests, and to be treated professionally. All this would not have been done without this program: we are actually saving lives. This huge impact is thanks to your NGO MedGlobal’s help and funds; we are able to give 335 elderly people a chance to take care of their health, which is the most important thing in life.”

Nadine Saidy Daher, President of Loubnaniyoun

“The elderly are an integral part of our society. Loneliness, negligence, chronic illness and lack of access to medical care are conditions they too often face. Given our limited resources in Lebanon, particularly the absence of an elderly healthcare system and social security safety nets, elderly people are facing greater demands and challenges. This program has not only helped them with their physical ailments, but has also given them hope for a better future, one where they are cared for and not left alone.”

Dr. Tania Baban, MedGlobal Program Manager in Lebanon

In conjunction with home visits, MedGlobal has provided PPE, medications, and other medical supplies to 13 primary health centers in Beirut to support emergency and primary medical response services. The program has impacted over 10,000 people directly. MedGlobal has been active in Lebanon since early 2018, providing primary and surgical care and mental health services to Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese patients. Since August 2020, following the devastating explosion in the port of Beirut, MedGlobal has been responding to the health needs of vulnerable Beirut residents.