Tackling COVID-19 Misinformation in Lebanon: Increasing Vaccine Access & Awareness for Syrian Refugees

Tackling COVID-19 Misinformation in Lebanon: Increasing Vaccine Access & Awareness for Syrian Refugees

By Valerie Nguyen, MedGlobal Policy Intern

More than 10 years of conflict in Syria has led close to 12 million Syrians to flee the country in search of safety, shelter, and opportunity. At least half of those who fled have relocated to neighboring countries, including Lebanon, which hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees at an estimated 1.5 million people, or over 20% of the total Lebanese population. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, vulnerable populations in Lebanon have faced a multitude of challenges, including a worsening financial crisis and the Beirut port explosion, which has exacerbated circumstances for Syrian refugees. 

Despite the inclusive approach Lebanon intended to adopt at the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) in Lebanon face challenges in accessing the vaccine and are also hesitant to become vaccinated. Throughout the pandemic, there has been a level of distrust among Syrian refugees concerning the Government of Lebanon and subsequently, the Ministry of Health. Due to Lebanon’s strict residency policies, Syrian refugees informally living in Lebanon live in fear of arrest, detention, and deportation. Misinformation on COVID-19 spread online through social media platforms, has also contributed to the distrust of Lebanese government entities, reducing the number of eligible Syrian refugees to register for vaccinations. 

According to a survey from the Iman Medical Center at the Ministry of Public Health in Lebanon, almost 37% of non-Lebanese respondents reported that they did not think the vaccine is safe and only 23% of non-Lebanese respondents said they are willing to take the vaccine. In addition, only 3% of the total Syrian refugee population pre-registered on the online vaccination platform, indicating low levels of confidence in the vaccine.

As of June 13th, 2021, more than 1,659,000 individuals are registered on the COVAX  vaccination platform, IMPACT, of which only 42,000 Syrian refugees are registered. In response to the low vaccination rate and spread of COVID-19 misinformation, MedGlobal implemented a program to register Syrian refugees for vaccination and also administer vaccines in the Bekaa region. In partnership with Multi-Aid Programs (MAPs) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the program aims to vaccinate 5,000 Syrians and register up to 15,000 Syrians online for vaccination. Our partner, MAPs, will communicate the project objective in their social clinics and offices to spread awareness to candidates who wish to be vaccinated, and the UNHCR will provide a clearance of each registered patient by medical staff and provide the AstraZeneca vaccine. MedGlobal’s Lebanon Logistics and Procurement Coordinator, Radiah Saleh, says that the main aim of the collaboration is to raise awareness among the Syrian refugee community, increase the number of COVID vaccinated cases, and establish a strong coordination and oversight mechanism between partners.

Most Syrian refugees live in high-density camps with poor access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services, leaving them at high risk of contracting COVID-19. Already, data provided by the United Nations shows that Syrian refugees have died from COVID-19 at a rate 3 to 4 times the national average. MedGlobal’s Program Manager, Dr. Tania Baban remarked that this project will not only help speed up the vaccination roll-out amongst the refugee population, but also help decrease the amount of hesitancy that has arisen from the spread of misinformation about the vaccine side effects. 

One Year After the Beirut Blast: Q&A with MedGlobal’s Lebanon Team

On August 4, 2020, a devastating explosion occurred in the port of Lebanon’s capital city, Beirut. The explosion left over 200 people dead, 6,500 injured, and 300,000 displaced from their homes. The explosion destroyed and damaged health facilities in Beirut. Now, the ongoing economic and political crisis continues to leave the people of Lebanon facing daily hardship. MedGlobal’s Lebanon Program Manager, Dr. Tania Baban, and Lebanon Logistics and Procurement Coordinator, Radiah Saleh, answered questions about the situation ahead of the one year anniversary of the Beirut port explosion.

1. It’s been a year since the Beirut port explosion. Can you describe the impact of the explosion on the city and for people in Lebanon in general?

Radiah Saleh: The blast took place amidst a political, economic, and public health crisis. It escalated the lack of confidence in governmental institutions and the public sector in general. The people felt betrayed by their own government for storing such toxic material in the port which is located in Beirut’s hub and adjacent to residential areas. Health care institutions were overwhelmed and over flooded by patients due to the closing down of major hospitals that were destroyed in the blast. And with the rising cases of COVID patients, things were getting out of control.

Dr. Tania Baban:

The explosion happened at a time when the Lebanese people had already been emotionally and physically drained.

The humanitarian impact of the blast was and remains very daunting. Lebanon had already been facing an economic meltdown, an influx of refugees, and a new spike in COVID-19 cases. It came in the throes of the worst economic crisis in recent Lebanese history, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around 33% of the country’s population lived at or below the poverty line September 2019 — that number is now estimated to be approximately 77%.

The country’s unemployment rate is now just above 50%. The  massive explosion in Beirut led to a more immediate emergency: more than 300,000 people were left homeless, and over 6,000 injured. These injuries come on top of the pandemic, placing additional stress on the country’s medical and healthcare resources as well as the population’s emotional breakdown.

2. The blast damaged major hospitals and destroyed primary health centers. Can you describe how people accessed health care directly after the explosion, and throughout the past year?

Radiah Saleh: Right after the explosion, emergency rooms were flooded with the injured and hospitals couldn’t accommodate the huge number of injuries. Some patients had to be treated in ambulances or outside hospital doors because hospitals were full and their staff outnumbered. 

Days after the explosion, COVID cases started skyrocketing due to the lack of measures and the chaos the country was going through. This is where MedGlobal saw it best to intervene to help ease the suffering of the Lebanese people in such unprecedented times. We started by distributing PPE material in the area that the blast took place in and then proceeded with the distribution of hygiene kits. We then set up a medical tent nearby the port area that offered first aid, medical assistance, and mental health consultations to more than 3,000 patients. Our work continued later on during the coming months to provide PPE and medications to several hospitals in the Beirut area and then expanded to distribute winterization and hygiene kits to refugee camps in Arsel, in addition to oxygen concentrators and medical equipment to hospitals in Beirut and the north of Lebanon. Our Elderly Program in collaboration with Lobnaneyon was a huge success due to the lack of home care in Lebanon, especially for the elderly.  We also received a lot of positive feedback for the implementation of the dental program in collaboration with MAPS in the north of Lebanon.

Dr. Tania Baban:

Lebanon is facing multiple overlapping emergencies that have had dire consequences.

The country’s ongoing economic crisis has made private healthcare prohibitively expensive, leaving more people reliant on the public health services. COVID-19 and the Beirut blast put additional strain on the already stretched public health system. As one healthcare official told the press the day after the explosion, “We need everything to hospitalize the victims, and there is an acute shortage of everything.”

The explosion destroyed three of the city’s main hospitals and damaged many other health facilities, forcing many patients to be evacuated and creating an increased demand for beds in other nearby facilities. Two more hospitals suffered severe damage, with one hospital managing to continue functioning by setting up a field hospital in its parking lot. Some medical supplies were already in short supply due to the coronavirus. Beirut had the highest concentration of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country. The port of Beirut also handled 80% of Lebanon’s medical imports, which meant that getting supplies into the country to where they were most needed involved contingency plans, such as delivering through the smaller port of Tripoli in the north (approximately 90 minutes away by car). Before the explosion, hospitals were already near capacity, coping with a spike in COVID cases. After the explosion, the situation deteriorated even more rapidly, with more than 300 new cases of COVID identified on a daily basis. It became harder for people to protect themselves from the virus while living in damaged homes without electricity and running water, or sharing shelters with other families. The health system was stretched to breaking point as medical facilities in the capital had to treat thousands of patients for severe burns and blast injuries. Many facilities reported an urgent need for more medications and medical equipment as well as medical staff to treat all those in need of care.

3. The mental health impact of the blast for many people in Lebanon will surely be long-lasting, and we know that anniversaries of traumatic events can sometimes reactivate particularly difficult thoughts and feelings for survivors. Can you describe some of the mental health and psychosocial support services that are available?

Radiah Saleh: Mental health awareness has been a rising topic in Lebanon the past couple of years due to the socio-economic situation in the country and unstable political situation. The blast alongside the pandemic reinforced the need for such care. MedGlobal’s first initiative in this field was in the medical tent that was set up in collaboration with a local NGO. A psychiatrist was brought on board and there were daily consultations and follow ups for over 200 patients. We then collaborated with Embrace, a local NGO aiming to raise mental health awareness whose mission is ‘to ensure that mental health and access to care is positioned as a basic human right that must be met for all persons, through awareness, advocacy, and dignified mental health services across the spectrum of care.’ 

Dr. Tania Baban:

Lebanon’s recent history combined with this explosion created a mental health challenge for hundreds of thousands of Beirutis, including an estimated 100,000 children.

While many affected by the blast may not have sustained physical injuries, the long-term effects of explosions are shown to include post-traumatic stress disorder. Left untreated, PTSD from these experiences could lead to chronic conditions including anxiety, depression, or addiction, as well as negative coping mechanisms. These conditions can seriously limit a person’s potential or quality of life. Although the number may not be exact, many people were separated from their loved ones in the aftermath of the blast. Many, including children, witnessed first-hand the destruction of their homes, the death of family members, and hospitalization of close friends. Hundreds of people are still recovering from physical injuries a year after that ominous day. And those without physical wounds are suffering from the psychological effects of what happened. The people still need substantial emotional and psychological support to help us try to “come to terms” with the disaster and the suffering that we continue to see around us.

4. Now we are seeing economic collapse lead to another dire crisis throughout Lebanon. Can you describe the daily challenges people are facing?

Radiah Saleh: Despite the lack of trust in leadership in Lebanon, community solidarity still stands. This is evident in the rising number of volunteers in response to the explosion, either through physical labor or through donating to local NGOs. The main challenge is that people do not feel that the money allocated for recovery, coming from the outside, will be spent equally, transparently, and fairly. People are reluctant to invest in anything public because of the corruption rates. They are pessimistic about the future and the quality of life a couple of years from now.

There is a growing shortage in medicine and fuel to keep hospitals and generators running, in addition to the fact that most of our renowned doctors are leaving the country.

Some food items have become a luxury to most Lebanese because of the inflated prices and devaluation of the Lebanese currency. 

Dr. Tania Baban: The country now faces a growing shortage of medical supplies and essential medicines, such as those used to treat chronic diseases and mental health, leaving the most vulnerable people at risk. Lebanon also hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world, which means that many of the displaced people living here have already endured traumatic experiences. Since late 2019, Lebanon has been grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades, as well as social unrest and political turmoil. These overlapping crises, along with COVID and the blast, have exacerbated people’s vulnerability and pushed thousands into poverty. All this comes in addition to a protracted situation for displaced people. Now the cost of basic goods, including food, is more and more difficult to afford for many. Medical fees have also become prohibitive for vulnerable groups in the country, and this context is expected to worsen people’s health conditions and access to care. We have already started to witness signs of deterioration. Over the past year, we have observed an increase in vulnerability among patients. Many of them are experiencing financial issues related to the country’s economic situation, which for some are having an impact on their ability to properly follow their treatment. The toll on people’s psychological well-being is also noticeable and is a major concern.

5. What are the greatest needs you see now for the population in Lebanon? Among Lebanese, as well as Syrian and Palestinian refugees, migrants, and others?

Radiah Saleh: The ability to provide basic necessities to their families is the main concern to most Lebanese or refugees residing in Lebanon.

What once was a necessity is now a luxury to most.

Clean water, fuel, electricity, food, and medicine are very difficult to acquire. A basic standard of living has become so hard to maintain, causing distress, anxiety, and depression among many people. Unemployment rates are rising by the day and maintaining a safe space for families to live is becoming impossible. These truly are unprecedented times and every donation and helping hand makes a difference. MedGlobal and our field team in Lebanon are trying to reach as many vulnerable communities as possible with the limited resources we have, and praying for better days for this beautiful, once vibrant country. 

Dr. Tania Baban: For many people in Lebanon, whether they are Lebanese, refugees, or migrant workers, the current economic crisis and the deteriorating living conditions come on top of traumatic events and stressful experiences they have already had to face, such as conflict or displacement. These stress factors have contributed to disrupting people’s psychological well-being. Many people in Lebanon show symptoms related to emotional distress, depression, anxiety and hopelessness. As one blow follows another, people’s coping mechanisms are weakened and, for many, keeping their head above the water is becoming harder. The MedGlobal Lebanon team is trying to help as much as we can in such a complex context and we are committed to continuing to do so, but our capacities are also limited and we can’t respond to all the needs. It is disheartening to see people’s vulnerability increasing and more people requiring more and more medical support.

We have become a nation on edge with limited access to anything and everything: medical equipment and medications, fuel and electricity, food and water.

Field Operations Update for November 2020

Each month, MedGlobal publishes a monthly Field Operation Update, highlighting our humanitarian and health programs around the world. MedGlobal supports healthcare in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador, Gaza, Greece, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, and has been contributing to the COVID-19 response in the United States. These monthly blog posts provide a snapshot of some of our most notable program updates from the past month. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 


In collaboration with Prantic and OBAT Helpers, MedGlobal provided a major distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies, and other health and hygiene equipment to health clinics in Cox’s Bazar. This medical distribution is supporting Rohingya refugees in the camps, as well as the Bangladeshi community in Cox’s Bazar town. The medical equipment included the most critically needed supplies to prevent and respond to the spread of COVID-19, including oxygen concentrators, portable ventilators, over 700 PPE sets, infrared thermometers, and more. This distribution also included 7 handwashing stands that went to the host community in Cox’s Bazar. They are stationed at various high-traffic areas, such as outside temples and public toilet spots.


The rapid spread of COVID-19 in Gaza continued into November. In partnership with Rahma Worldwide, MedGlobal provided a shipment of 75,400 PPE items as well as sanitizing supplies to the Kamal Adwan Hospital in Gaza in November. MedGlobal’s Gaza Program Manager Raja commented, “As COVID-19 continues to spread so rapidly in Gaza, masks and other PPE are critical to protect the few health workers available to treat those affected.”

MedGlobal also continues to support the salaries of staff in Kamal Adwan Hospital’s Pediatric ICU Department. This month, MedGlobal increased the number of staff we’re supporting to 20 doctors and nurses. This emergency pediatrics department is critical, particularly as the people in Gaza are cut off from external healthcare, and its medical staff have saved over 100 children’s lives. Gaza is home to two million Palestinians, nearly 80% of whom rely on humanitarian assistance and live in overcrowded areas with poor living conditions.


MedGlobal has continued its medical response in Beirut, aimed at supporting overwhelmed health facilities facing increased levels of medical need and a medication shortage in Lebanon. In partnership with Baitulmaal, MedGlobal delivered two rounds of medications to the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut, which will provide critical treatment for hundreds of patients facing emergency health issues as well as non-communicable diseases. During the distribution, our Lebanon team commented: “They have been out of stock of some of these medicines for quite some time, and they are life-saving.”


In northwest Syria, there are now between 300-500 new confirmed COVID-19 cases each day. With a health system destroyed from war, local health workers warn that a health catastrophe may be imminent. MedGlobal, alongside our partners Rahma Worldwide and Violet Organization, began the installation of two major oxygen generators: one in Idlib City and one in Darkoush, northwest Syria. These generators will help supply health facilities, especially those leading in COVID-19 treatment, with critically-needed oxygen. Health facilities in northwest Syria have been facing an increasing demand for oxygen cylinders with the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 patients who face severe symptoms, including difficulty breathing. This oxygen supply will have a lasting impact for local communities.

In addition, MedGlobal continued its distribution of 200 oxygen concentrators and 100 CPAP/ BIPAP machines in partnership with local independent NGOs throughout Syria, including to Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Latakia, Hama, Zabadani, Bludan, and Safita. The provision of oxygen and these non-invasive ventilators are critical for people with difficulty breathing, primarily those suffering from severe COVID-19 symptoms. MedGlobal is also distributing 2,500 pulse oximeters, devices to measure the level of oxygen in your blood, which were also requested as critical based on local needs assessments.

United States 

Domestically, MedGlobal is committed to supporting health facilities that focus on supporting particularly marginalized and underserved communities. These communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 with both higher rates of infection and mortality from the virus. In November, Illinois saw a spike in COVID-19, with the daily rates consistently over 10,000 new cases and 100 deaths per day. Hospitals became increasingly stretched then. In November, MedGlobal donated an additional 1,000 PPE items to Saint Anthony Hospital in Chicago to help with their COVID-19 response. Saint Anthony Hospital is a safety-net hospital that primarily treats underserved communities of immigrants, people of color, and those facing economic hardship.

Field Operations Update for October 2020

Each month, MedGlobal publishes a monthly Field Operation Update, highlighting our humanitarian and health programs around the world. MedGlobal supports healthcare in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador, Gaza, Greece, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, and has been contributing to the COVID-19 response in the United States. These monthly blog posts provide a snapshot of some of our most notable program updates from the past month. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 


Nurse in Colombia at Tienditas shelter

This past month, MedGlobal extended support for two nurses working at a shelter at Tienditas Bridge on the border of Venezuela and Colombia. These nurses are providing free medical care to Venezuelans who are stuck at the border, waiting to return to Venezuela due to deteriorating conditions in Colombia. Particularly since COVID-19 reached the country, the Colombian health system has been overwhelmed and many of the 1.8 million displaced Venezuelans in the country do not have access to health services. The lockdowns and economic downturn caused by COVID-19 have also made life for migrants in Colombia increasingly difficult. Thousands of Venezuelans are now attempting to return home, but prospects for returnees, especially in terms of access to healthcare, remain grim. 


The spike of COVID-19 cases in Gaza has continued into October. MedGlobal, in partnership with Rahma Worldwide, provided 6,000 COVID-19 test kits and a shipment of medications for chronic diseases to hospitals in Gaza. This aid is crucial for supporting the fragile and under-resourced health sector that suffers from chronic shortages of medications and supplies. Testing capacity has also remained an urgent issue in Gaza, where hospitals rely on donations of testing kits from humanitarian organizations and UN agencies to meet needs. Gaza is home to two million Palestinians, nearly 80% of whom rely on humanitarian assistance and live in overcrowded areas with poor living conditions.


Following the devastating explosion of Beirut’s port, MedGlobal launched an emergency response in Beirut to provide support to overwhelmed health facilities facing increased levels of medical need. MedGlobal partnered with United Hands Relief and Development to provide essential medical equipment and supplies to the LAU Medical Center-Rizk Hospital in Beirut. The medical container included more than 55,000 medications and 20,000 pieces of equipment and supplies, including critically-need PPE to protect health staff during the pandemic. This support will help serve nearly 10,000 people in Lebanon.


MedGlobal and the Sudanese American Physician Association (SAPA) are moving forward together to build an oxygen generator and oxygen filling station at Nyala Teaching Hospital in South Darfur. MedGlobal and SAPA will also provide 20 oxygen cylinders. The project will be managed by the South Darfur Ministry of Health which will provide long-term maintenance for the generator. This support will play a role in building the hospital’s capacity to treat patients with extreme COVID-19 symptoms or other respiratory illnesses in an extremely underserved community. MedGlobal has previously supported 8 hospitals throughout Sudan with PPE and medical equipment, but this is the first project MedGlobal has launched in the Darfur region.


MedGlobal distributed PPE, medical supplies, and equipment to Al Mokha Isolation Center in Taiz governorate. This support follows MedGlobal’s work to establish the isolation unit which provides vital healthcare to one of the area’s most vulnerable populations. Prior to MedGlobal’s involvement, there were no functioning hospitals screening for COVID-19 in Al Mokha. All suspected and confirmed cases were referred to Aden or Taiz City, a journey of 4 to 5 hours, forcing many people with COVID-19 to remain at home as their health deteriorated. The recent distribution to Al Mokha Isolation Center included 24 beds, 19 oxygen cylinders, diagnostic equipment, thousands of items of PPE, and other requested medical supplies. In Yemen, only half of all medical facilities are fully functioning, making health support more critical than ever.

Field Operations Update for September 2020

Starting this month, MedGlobal will be putting out monthly Field Operation Updates, highlighting our humanitarian and health programs around the world. MedGlobal supports health care in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador, Gaza, Greece, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, and we have been contributing to the COVID-19 response in the United States. These monthly blog posts will provide a snapshot of some of our most notable program updates from the past month, though won’t cover the entirety of the health services and humanitarian work MedGlobal provides each month. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.   


On August 4, 2020 a massive explosion in Beirut’s port destroyed buildings and infrastructure, killing at least 191 people, injuring over 6,500, and leaving as many as 300,000 people without a home. Following the explosion, MedGlobal launched an emergency response in coordination with local partners. MedGlobal partnered with Banin Charity Organization to establish a medical tent that provides medical and mental health services, medications, hygiene kits, supplies, and referrals to people affected by the blast. The tent is located in the Zqaq El Blat area of Beirut and referral tents are located in Mar Mikhael and Karantina. MedGlobal also provided Rafik Hariri University Hospital, located in Beirut, with medical supplies and medications following the blast. For more information about MedGlobal’s emergency response to the Beirut blast, please watch this video

In addition to the Beirut response, MedGlobal responded to the COVID-19 crisis alongside our partner Multi-Aid Programs (MAPs) by providing health care support to Syrian refugees, who are particularly vulnerable. MedGlobal supported two medical facilities who primarily serve Syrian refugee communities in Majdal Anjar, a village in Lebanon’s Beka’a governorate. We provided personal protective equipment (PPE), staff salaries, and medications to the facilities.  Our recent work in Majdal Anjar has reached 6,000 patients.


In response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s most populous city, MedGlobal began providing the MUEVE Foundation with supplies for their medical brigades for vulnerable populations in Guayaquil. This included medications for over 4,000 patients, 1,000 surgical masks, and 500 bottles of sanitizer. In partnership with Parametria, Santa Elena Governorate, and the Universidad Estatal Peninsula de Santa Elena, MedGlobal also helped conduct a survey to learn more about socio-demographics and perceptions and knowledge of COVID-19 within the province. In addition to our work combatting COVID-19, MedGlobal, in partnership with Parametria, donated food and hygiene kits to the MUEVE Foundation which will distribute them among 500 families of displaced Venezuelans in Guayaquil neighborhoods, reaching over 2,500 people. 


In August, MedGlobal scaled up its COVID-19 response in Yemen. MedGlobal distributed over 60,000 items of PPE and 61 oxygen cylinders, in addition to hospital beds, testing equipment, and other medical supplies to hospitals and isolation units throughout Yemen. This health care has served some of the most vulnerable communities in the Hadramout, Al Hudaydah, and Taiz governorates. Only half of all medical facilities in Yemen are fully functioning and 80% of the population relies on humanitarian assistance, so health support is more critical than ever.


As the COVID-19 crisis escalated in Syria, MedGlobal, alongside our partner Rahma Worldwide, has worked to provide oxygen concentrators, crucial for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, to health facilities and isolation units in Idlib, northwest Syria. Oxygen concentrators are crucial for providing the medical grade oxygen needed for treating COVID-19 patients. The impact of the pandemic is adding to an already dire humanitarian situation in Syria, nine years into an emergency conflict. Additionally, in August MedGlobal began to provide 200 oxygen generators and 60 CPAP machines, or non-invasive ventilators for people suffering from severe pneumonia or COVID-19 symptoms, to cities throughout Syria in partnership with local independent NGOs based on comprehensive needs assessments. These medical supplies will support upwards of 2,000 people, primarily those who are not financially able to access health care, over the next 6 months in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Latakia, Hama, Zabadani, Bludan, and Safita. 

3 years ago, MedGlobal was born

By Dr. Zaher Sahloul, MedGlobal President and Co-Founder

Three years ago, I was in Yemen with three other medical volunteers, providing internal medicine and pediatrics services to people suffering from the effects of war and famine. MedGlobal had just been formed. In between medical consultations, we talked about the goals for the future of our organization, dedicated to providing innovative healthcare to crisis-affected and low-resource areas.

But I could have never predicted how many people we would reach in just three years.

  • In the last three years, we have:
  • Served more than 204,700 patients all around the world.
  • Provided local health facilities with more than $16.2 million in medical supplies, equipment, and assistance.
  • Mobilized 455 health volunteers from 26 countries to provide their skills in medical trainings and consultations for areas most in need.
  • Expanded our operations to serve the most vulnerable communities in 14 countries: Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador, Gaza, Greece, Kurdistan in Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, the United States, Venezuela, and Yemen.

Your support has made this possible.

I also never could have predicted this difficult moment in time – six months into a global pandemic, seeing record daily increases in COVID-19. Our countries of operation have been hit with new and ongoing crises: a devastating fire on Lesvos Island, Greece, just burned the Moria refugee camp to the ground; the explosion in Beirut created a new humanitarian emergency; Sudan and Bangladesh are experiencing record-breaking floods; and the protracted conflicts in Syria and Yemen have led to unthinkable suffering. We still have a lot of work to do.

Every day, however, I am inspired by you – my health colleagues, community members, and supporters from around the world. You remind me that our organization’s mission is possible: to create a world without healthcare disparity.

Your support is the reason our services and health programs have grown so quickly in just three years – imagine what we can do together in the next three. Join us in supporting critical and innovative health services.

Thank you for being part of the MedGlobal community.

In solidarity,

Dr. Zaher Sahloul
MedGlobal President and Co-Founder

Press Release: MedGlobal Calls for Foreign Medical Doctors to be Granted Licenses to Help in COVID-19 Response

Washington, DC – MedGlobal thanks Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey for signing Executive Order No. 112 which grants temporary U.S. licenses to doctors who are licensed and in good standing in foreign countries. 

This Executive Order for New Jersey is a critical step in enabling foreign medical professionals to assist in the urgent and extensive response to COVID-19 in the United States. As of April 1, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 186,101 cases and 3,603 deaths from the virus in the U.S. 

MedGlobal urges all governors to authorize similar executive orders, granting temporary US medical licenses to doctors who are licensed in foreign countries. 

“During times of disasters, it is expected that policy makers modify public policies in order to save more lives. Now, with the U.S. at the epicenter of this global pandemic, we are suffering from a shortage of medical professionals that may get even worse as more patients and healthcare workers get exposed to or infected with COVID-19,” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul, President of MedGlobal. “It is vital that US-based foreign doctors (IMGs) – who are able to use their skills to save lives – are granted licenses to practice medicine across the U.S. during this dangerous pandemic.” 

MedGlobal provides free healthcare and life-saving medication to vulnerable communities across the world, including Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, displaced Venezuelan in Colombia, refugees in Greece, and victims of wars in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Gaza. These communities are bracing for a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak. MedGlobal is scaling up its work during this time with an international COVID-19 response, including providing medical supplies, ventilators, medical technology for Intensive Care Units, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers in Gaza, Syria, Yemen, Bangladesh, and beyond. Our volunteers and local staff are honored to serve these communities, and we implore all U.S. governors to grant foreign doctors the ability to offer the same care and solidarity to COVID-19 patients here in the U.S. 

MedGlobal‌ ‌Calls‌ ‌For‌ ‌Urgent‌ ‌COVID-19‌ ‌Response‌ ‌for‌ ‌Refugees‌ ‌and‌ ‌Displaced‌ ‌Persons‌

March 20, 2020

In the midst of the deadly global COVID-19 pandemic, MedGlobal urges immediate and urgent action to support refugees, displaced persons, and the most vulnerable communities. MedGlobal warns of the potential for a catastrophic impact of the dangerous virus on refugees and other vulnerable communities, and commits itself to adapting programs in the most effective ways to meet their needs. 

“While the global health community and countries are busy with curbing the spread of COVID-19, let us not forget the refugees and the displaced,” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul, President and Co-founder of MedGlobal. “It is our humanitarian duty, and the right thing to do, to prevent catastrophic morbidity and mortality in a population that is unable to deal with the pandemic effectively.”

There are over 70 million refugees and forcibly displaced persons in the world. They will be the hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many are confined to cramped environments like overcrowded camps or communities in urban areas where disease can rapidly spread. The majority do not have access to basic preventive measures like clean water, soap, cleaning solutions, sufficient sanitation facilities, or the ability to social distance or self-isolate. Refugees and displaced persons are made even more vulnerable by the lack of access to testing, limited access to sufficient medical care like Intensive Care Units in case they contract COVID-19, and damaged or destroyed health infrastructure as a result of conflict. These conditions could easily facilitate the rapid spread of COVID-19, with a mortality rate predicted to be much higher than the general population. 

MedGlobal provides free healthcare and life-saving medication to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, displaced Venezuelan in Colombia, and refugees in Greece, in addition to local communities in Pakistan and victims of wars in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Gaza. These communities are bracing for a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak. 

The MedGlobal team is acting with urgency to support brave frontline health workers and vulnerable communities during this COVID-19 pandemic. To date, our team has taken the following steps to adapt our operations and respond to COVID-19:

  1. Emergency Needs Assessments: We are working with our teams and partners in Bangladesh, Colombia, Greece, Pakistan, Yemen, Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria to compile emergency needs assessments to understand the current situation locally and respond in the most effective way for each setting. 
  2. Emergency Supplies and Triage Programs: Based on local needs, we are ramping up provision of medical supplies to support local health workers and communities, including soap, washing units, personal hygiene kits, and cleaning solutions; medications, ventilators, oxygen masks, and medical technology for Intensive Care Units; Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) including masks, gowns, gloves and eye shields. With top experts around the world, we are developing emergency triage programs in preparation for potential COVID-19 outbreaks. 
  3. New Prevention Measures for our Clinics: Our full-time clinics in Bangladesh and Colombia continue to function, with new infection control and prevention measures implemented in coordination with partners. 
  4. Clinical Resources: We are designing resources pertaining to COVID-19 tailored specifically to our field operations, including recommendations on infection control and prevention based on CDC, WHO and UNHCR data; clinical management of suspected cases; and emergency planning in the case of an outbreak.
  5. Educational Online Programs: We are planning webinars and educational programs for the general public, which aim to present the potential impact COVID-19 may have on refugee communities. Our first webinar on COVID-19 is Tuesday, March 24 from 9am-11am CST. 
  6. Mental Health Response: We are designing a mental health plan in the context of COVID-19, including a webinar for all staff wellbeing on coping with the COVID-19 threat and a webinar for field staff on how to support patients’ mental health during the pandemic.

MedGlobal will continue to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized, primarily communities of refugees, displaced persons, and others facing crises. We will continue to work with brave health workers across the globe to ensure that we are able to reach and support these communities, who must not be forgotten during this global pandemic. 

Join us in supporting health workers on the front lines, helping vulnerable communities preparing for COVID-19 outbreaks.


Save Lives, Give Zakat to MedGlobal before the year ends

According to Islamic scholars, Zakat, or almsgiving should be given to the most vulnerable, the needy, and displaced (al-masakeen and wayfarers). 

Your Zakat helps us save lives and provide healing by supporting:

  1. Necessary medications and medical supplies
  2. Performing life-saving surgeries on the needy
  3. Direct nursing or medical care
  4. Catastrophic hospitalizations

MedGlobal is a Zakat-eligible charity organization that saves lives and provides medical relief and services to refugees and victims of disasters in 14 different countries including:

  1. Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. So far, we served 98,000 Rohingya refugees, like Hasina Begum in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar
  2. Syrian refugees and victims of war in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. So far, we have provided more than $1,000,000 of much-needed assistance to patients like Abdullah, a victim of barrel bombs in Idlib.
  3. Refugees in Greece, like Mohammad, a refugee from Afghanistan in Moria camp
  4. Victims of war in Gaza. So far we have provided $400,000 to Palestinian patients like Maryam, a patient with cancer in Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza city
  5. Victims of war in Yemen. So far we have provided more than $1,000,000 to Yemeni patients like Sabaa, a child with severe malnutrition in Al-Jawf

Give your Zakat to MedGlobal today!


MedGlobal is in urgent need of specialists for our partner clinic in Lebanon this November

MedGlobal is recruiting medical and surgical specialists, mainly in the fields of Endocrinology, Neurology, Pulmonary, Gastroenterology, Rheumatology, and Orthopedics to volunteer with our partner, the Syrian Refugee Health Clinic in Lebanon, starting November 25.

As the conflict in Syria continues, emergency funding is drying up and the healthcare needs of the refugee population are increasing. The latest reports estimate that there are over 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, with 350,000 registered in the Beqaa region. Several healthcare centers are providing non-specialty consultations and dispersed care. Moreover, there is a surplus of Lebanese and non-Lebanese generalists available to the population, yet their coordination is lacking and the cost of care is high.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a rising cause of morbidity and mortality in the refugee population. Ghiras Healthcare Centres, along with our partner Multi-Aid Programs’ (MAPs), run clinics that see an average of 300 patients per day between the adult, pediatrics, maternal health and dentistry clinics. There is a lack of specialist care providers and the need is high. MedGlobal is leading the efforts in closing the healthcare gap in areas in need. The most pressing need is for endocrinologists, neurologists, pulmonologists, gastroenterologists, and orthopedists.

Starting November, MedGlobal will be sending a team of specialists for 1-week duration missions every 2 months, while also performing data collection, training, and quality improvement projects to advance the field of refugee health both locally and globally.

If you are available to join these missions please email [email protected] for further details.

Changing quality of life for Syrian refugees with cardio procedure and training

By Dr. Moeen Saleem, April 2019

We had an MVP today.

Before I joined the MedGlobal medical mission in #Lebanon, Dr. Marwan Refaat consulted on a 6-year-old boy who had a pacemaker placed due to a slow heartbeat. The boy’s heartbeat was the result of surgery for a congenital heart defect. Hearts beat around 100,000 per day, 60 times per minute, 60 minutes per hour, 24 hours. That is a lot of work for a machine to handle and requires maintenance. The battery on his pacemaker was due for replacement, but his family was unable to afford it.

Ideally, pacemakers have two wires; one for the top part of the heart and one for the bottom part of the heart. They keep the top and bottom parts of the heart in sync. The child’s pacemaker only had one wire, which is the minimum to maintain a heartbeat. Why are two wires be better than one? In this situation, having one wire is like running with a cast. It can be done but is not very inefficient.

Today, we had the privilege of having Dr. Sami Chaouki from Northwestern Memorial, a Pediatric Cardiac ‘electrical’ specialist being on our team. He successfully changed the pacemaker for a new device and added a second wire, thereby providing a more in sync heartbeat. In other words, the child could now run with two legs, no cast.

During the procedure, we insert wires into a vein in the leg and then thread them to the heart. Then we remove the wires and put pressure on the vein to control bleeding. After the procedure, patients must lay flat for several hours. Dr. Kousik Krishnan taught a local physician in training how to insert a special collagen plug into a vein to reduce bedrest time from several hours to only two hours.

Why does this matter? It dramatically shortens the recovery from a procedure. The sooner a patient can be mobilized after a procedure the better. The less likely they are to form blood clots or suffer bleeding after the wires are removed. The sooner they can go home.

At the end of the day I said, “Sami, you’re the MVP. You didn’t just change a battery. You changed a life.” Education and humanitarian efforts are in MedGlobal’s mission statement.

Patients are happy and thanks to Cardiva Medical’s donation, we could help shorten procedural recovery safely.

This ain’t no Airbnb. When we plan a family vacation, we often look for a home to rent with nice amenities, a good location, and the number of guests that can be accommodated. Refugees do not get to choose fancy amenities and location requirements are simply to be far away from the violence of war.

Tents will sleep as many as can fit into a 6×8 space. Kids play in areas where there are exposed electrical wires. Fire hazards and risks of injury are real but at least there aren’t any bombs. And it is not uncommon to notice there are not many men 20-30 years old. They are lost because from war, either killed or are in prison.

I am honored to serve on a team full of unselfish people who travel to make a difference in the lives of people who are suffering. Simple because of the circumstances of being born in one part of the world instead of another.

Please support MedGlobal’s life-changing medical missions to Lebanon. Donate or volunteer today!


Refugees are unwavering in desire to change the course of their lives

By Dr. Anwar Hussain, April 2019

I am an ER physician from Chicago. I was in Lebanon as part of a medical team with #MedGlobal in April 2019. We worked in partnership with MAPs (Multi Aid Programs), founded by Dr. Fadi, a Syrian neurosurgeon.

The team included multi-specialty medical and surgical teams. We worked in different camps and locations depending on need/specialty and also due to OR/Cath availabilities. Here, I share my experiences as an ER physician at an acute care facility.

I was at one of the #MAPs medical centers which had three-bed acute care facility. I worked with a Syrian Internist, several nurses, and techs – who are all refugees. At the acute care center, I saw a significant number of pediatric orthopedic injuries, abdominal, chest complaints, asthma/COPD exacerbations, diabetes, and hypertension related issues, viral syndromes, lacerations, wound infections, and burn injuries.

The nursing staff, comprising of all Syrian refugees, were very skilled. They were able to provide wound care, incision and drainage, casting, IVs, nebulizer treatments, and laceration repairs. Their skill set was quite impressive.

For any labs or imaging, patients had to go to the labs and x-ray center, which is a 10-minute walk to a different facility, and then they bring back their images and lab results with them. There is also a physical therapy center, which helps with crutches and physical therapy needs, which was also a 10-minute walk from the center. The EKG machine was quite archaic but it did the job. Patients with chest pain would get an EKG, but if they needed a troponin, they would have to go to a lab at a different center, and the results will be available after 24 hours or they’ll have to go to the hospital. Fortunately, I didn’t see any STEMI (acute heart attack) patients during my stay there.

The other clinical challenge was language and cultural norms. Fortunately, we had interpreters most of the time. The women are dressed from head to toe, and it becomes challenging to evaluate these patients for abdominal or low back complaints. I had a female interpreter in the room who was able to explain the indication for the exam and allowed me to examine them appropriately.

The lack of medications was also a challenge. With any refugee crisis, there is very limited availability of medications. We had to choose from a few antibiotics, diabetic and antihypertensive meds, to treat a vast array of acute and chronic conditions. Fortunately, we didn’t have many patients with allergies to these medications.

The pain medications were basic, primarily acetaminophen or ibuprofen or their equivalent. I bought bottles of acetaminophen and ibuprofen from Costco, and they were a hot commodity. Patients with acute fractures, cancer patients and victims all received pain control with these basic analgesic options.

We didn’t have any monitors or ability to do CT scans at this site either. If anyone needed a CT, they would have to travel to a different hospital which is far and not easily affordable.
Overall, I was impressed by the MAPS facility, refugee medical staff, and the patients. We were all welcome with open arms, hugs, mint tea, and smiles. As people found out the American doctors are here, they even got their family members to come for a medical opinion. They are an amazing group of people, very resilient, proud and talented. Even though they all have gone through traumatic experiences of war, they are not giving up. They hid their sadness behind their smiles.

One common story I heard from many Syrian refugees was that their family is scattered all around the world. Their siblings, parents, spouse or kids are somewhere in Europe or other parts of the Middle East and they haven’t seen them in years.

While the world is engaged in all kinds of political battle, the refugees and the MAPs leaders with all kinds of challenges and uphill battle, are not looking back. They are determined to succeed.

One day our MedGlobal medical staff was invited to a school and we saw these amazing, beautiful children who gave speeches in Arabic and English, and they are all determined to become doctors, engineers, musicians, and soccer players.

This was my first visit to this region, and I was humbled by their condition and their resilience. I will not be surprised to see these children become future leaders. I hope we all do our best to help the refugees and especially find a way to help educate the kids, who otherwise will become victims of crime or human trafficking. I wrote this column because I was impressed by their approach of making education a priority, otherwise, a generation could be lost. It will be unfair if I do not plead for help on their behalf.

Please donate today to support our medical missions to Lebanon!