In January 2016 UNRWA introduced adjustments to its hospitalisation policy in Lebanon to achieve greater sustainability in the Agency’s support for the Palestine refugees living in the country. It brings a number of important benefits, including an increase in support for tertiary care which has been a long-standing request of Palestine Refugees in Lebanon. The adjusted policy also reduces dependence on private hospitals that tend to be the most expensive.
The announcement of the new policy in mid-December led to strongly voiced concerns from refugees about the cost-sharing element which was introduced in secondary hospitalisation support. Palestine refugees continue to highlight that in particular the poorest members of their community would not be in a position to contribute to the costs of hospitalisation and would therefore unfairly suffer as a result of the policy adjustments.
The Agency is taking these concerns very seriously and as a result has decided to launch a complementary fund to ensure that the most vulnerable remain with the needed access to secondary care. Therefore, with respect to the adjustments, UNRWA will uphold its commitments towards the Palestine refugees, especially those who are most in need of support.
The Agency managed to secure initial contributions, and this fund is being operationalised. UNRWA is working to ensure that this mechanism attracts various partners to address the specific hospitalisation needs of Palestine Refugees in Lebanon. The Agency has long recognized that hospitalisation needs in Lebanon are
incomparably high, and as such, it continues to invest 50 percent of its total hospitalisation budget in Lebanon.
The Agency is proactively working to find solutions to a number of practical challenges such as some hospitals demanding deposits upon admission and patients in some areas only having access to expensive private hospitals.
UNRWA urges the international community and the host country to listen to the strong message of despair and frustration expressed by Palestine refugees. The feeling of neglect, marginalisation, the profound anxieties, and the denial of rights and absence of future prospects lie at the heart of the powerful grievances that are being expressed.
All stakeholders must do their utmost to ensure that the plight of Palestine refugees in Lebanon is not forgotten, by supporting and protecting UNRWA's operations and mandate as well as by opening more employment and livelihood opportunities for Palestine refugees. In this respect we appreciate the efforts of supporting dialogue from the UN Special Coordinator as well as Palestinian and Lebanese representatives and interlocutors.
UNRWA calls for the respect of the integrity of its staff, installations and offices, as threats and closures affect the much needed provision of services to refugees.