UNRWA and the European Union Promote Good Health Practices among Palestine Refugee Students in Lebanon

18 August 2017
Palestine refugee students visit recently rehabilitated health centres in Lebanon. © 2017 UNRWA Photo

In May 2017, 120 grade 7 students from the Saida and Burj Shemali areas visited three newly renovated UNRWA health centres, all of which were rehabilitated and refurbished with European Union (EU) support: the Ein El Hilweh Health Centre II, the Saida Polyclinic and the Burj Shemali Health Centre. The aim of the visit was to teach students about the Agency’s health-care services and see them in action, as well as to expand their knowledge of key health issues.

For Palestine refugees in Lebanon, access to affordable health services is difficult. Palestine refugees do not enjoy public health coverage in the Lebanese health system and are not recognized under any of the Ministry of Public Health programmes. On average, Palestine refugees spend around 12 per cent of their total expenditures on health (AUB Survey 2015).  As such, the primary health-care services that UNRWA provides free of charge to Palestine refugees are critical, as are the Agency’s efforts to raise awareness in the community about public health issues and our services.

The students visiting the health centres were accompanied by health tutors, who are sponsored through the EU regional trust fund 'MADAD,' and taken on an interactive tour of the health centres by the head nurse. The MADAD Fund is used by UNRWA to support the needs of Palestine refugee children from Syria in Lebanon and covers educational material (including health materials) and recreational activities. The Fund ensures the dignity of Palestine refugee students from Syria and that they receive quality and inclusive education. The Fund also promotes healthy living by supporting health tutors who lead the children through the health curriculum, which covers healthy eating, proper hygiene and oral health.

The students visiting the health centres engaged with the medical staff and learned about their operations and good health practices from the doctors. All of the participating students wrote about their experience – you can read some of their accounts about what they learned during these visits below.

The European Union and UNRWA have been long-time partners in offering affordable and high-standard health care and providing a decent standard of living for the most vulnerable Palestine refugees through the rehabilitation of shelters and health centres. The three health centres were rehabilitated to better serve the needs of the camp inhabitants, allowing for better utilization of space and for the adaptation of the Family Health Team approach, focusing on the comprehensive history of the patient rather than treating the specific ailment and allowing for a more person-centered approach to their health-care needs.  

By Fatima Idris 

The Health Centre is an organization that delivers medical services to Palestine refugees in Burj Shemali camp. We visited the centre one day and the nurse, Sheikha, welcomed us with love and respect. We entered the first room and it was full of files and lockers for the patients who wanted to heal. Then we met all the doctors, and every doctor is assisted by a nurse. We also went into the drugs room that was filled with drugs, the dentist’s room, the delivery room and the laboratory. In my opinion, the Health Centre is perfect and has no problems. It helps keeps us and our families healthy and safe. 

Paragraph by grade 7 student Fatima Idris about her experience visiting the newly renovated UNRWA health centres.
Paragraph by grade 7 student Fatima Idris about her experience visiting the newly renovated UNRWA health centres.
By Hala Ardat

I went with some students with our teacher Lina Jaafar and the health counsellor Zahra El Hussein to the UNRWA Health Centre to learn about its sections. When we got there, the chief nurse Sheikha welcomed us and updated us. She explained to us how patients are treated; each family has its own file. We went into all the rooms and learned about the changes they underwent. Each nurse has a specific room in which they treat the patients. I thank teacher Lina and Miss Zahra because I learned details about the Centre I did not know about.

Paragraph by grade 7 student Hala Ardat about her experience visiting the newly renovated UNRWA health centres.
Paragraph by grade 7 student Hala Ardat about her experience visiting the newly renovated UNRWA health centres.
By Hamleh Othman 

On May 3rd, 2017, we, the students in Grade 7, Qibya school, visited the UNRWA clinic in Ein El Hilweh camp. We listened to a lecture from the doctor in charge about the services that UNRWA secures for the Palestinian refugees. The doctor told us new information about personal [cleanliness], lice infection and healthy food. 
At the end, we [advise] other [classes] to visit the clinic in the future. 

Paragraph by grade 7 student Hamleh Othman about her experience visiting the newly renovated UNRWA health centres.
Paragraph by grade 7 student Hamleh Othman about her experience visiting the newly renovated UNRWA health centres.
By Reem Mahmoud 

On 3rd May, 2017, we made a visit to [Ein El Hilweh] camp to have a lecture about health education. One of the doctors gave us a lecture on three topics:

  1. How to protect ourselves from lice infection
  2. Personal hygiene
  3. Healthy food

At the end, many of us asked the doctor many questions. He was very kind and cooperative. We were very happy to have this kind of visit and hope we have similar visits in the future. 

Paragraph by grade 7 student Reem Mahmoud about her experience visiting the newly renovated UNRWA health centres.
Paragraph by grade 7 student Reem Mahmoud about her experience visiting the newly renovated UNRWA health centres.

UNRWA Health Care in Lebanon

UNRWA provides primary health-care services through 27 health centres in Lebanon, with 12 centres located inside the camps and 15 located in Lebanese cities and Palestinian gatherings in Lebanon. UNRWA provides a comprehensive package of both curative and preventive services, which include consultations with general practitioners, ante- and post-natal health care, family planning, and specialist care (e.g. cardiology, gynaecology and ophthalmology). Essential drugs and a range of simple diagnostic tests (laboratories and radiology) are also provided. In addition, with the influx of Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) into Lebanon since 2012, UNRWA has significantly expanded its beneficiary caseload for its health services, supporting some 32,000 PRS (as of December 2016) and providing them with direct access to basic primary health care and hospitalization services. 

The EU MADAD Fund 

The EU regional trust fund MADAD provides concrete assistance for refugees and host communities for basic education and child protection, training and higher education, better access to health care, and improved water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as support for projects promoting resilience, economic opportunities and social inclusion in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

EU and UNRWA: Together for Palestine refugees

Since 1971, the European Union and UNRWA have maintained a strategic partnership governed by the shared objective to support the human development, humanitarian and protection needs of Palestine refugees and promote stability in the Middle East. Today, the European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. This reliable and predictable support from the European Union enables UNRWA to provide core services to more than 5 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, including quality education for roughly half a million children and primary health care for more than 3.5 million patients. Collectively, the EU and its Member States are also among the largest contributors to the Agency’s humanitarian emergency appeals and projects in response to various crises and specific needs across the region. The partnership between the European Union and UNRWA has allowed millions of Palestine refugees to be better educated, live healthier lives, access employment opportunities and improve their living conditions, thus contributing to the development of the entire region.

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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