Healing hearts: MAP’s tertiary care support for Palestinian refugees from Syria

In May 2016, MAP received a grant from the Lebanon Humanitarian Fund to support our ongoing project to pay for life-saving surgeries for Palestinian Refugees from Syria and the cost of very expensive medication for Multiple Sclerosis and Cancer patients from Lebanon and Syria.

The ten-month grant has already helped around 120 patients to have dignified access to necessary life-saving treatment. Intisar* is one of those MAP has helped through this project:

Intisar is a forty-four year old Palestinian Refugee from Yarmouk camp in Syria. Five years ago, when the conflict intensified, Intisar’s family, together with her mother and six of her siblings and their families, took the journey to Lebanon hoping for a safe refuge.

When they first arrived to Lebanon, the families were shocked by the high cost of renting a place to live. Five of the families – 21 people in total – rented a three-room flat for $500 in one of the villages in Lebanon. Intisar was aware of the unstable security situation in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, and having suffered the conflict and war-related stress in Syria, wanted to ensure that her children could live in a safe and peaceful environment.

A mother always prioritizes her children even if it is at the expense of her own health.

Her eldest son, Ahmad, had just graduated high school when they arrived to Lebanon. Inistar told MAP that he was not able to enroll in a Vocational Training Center (VTC) as they were not accepting Palestinian Refugees from Syria at that time. “Luckily, Ahmad managed to find a job in a restaurant soon after our arrival. I am sad that he did not go to a university or a VTC, but this job was the only source of income for the family for years because my husband has not been able to find work,” said Intisar.

Her other son, sixteen-year-old Hasan, was unable to adapt to the Lebanese school curriculum and dropped out of school a few months later. Hasan is now looking desperately for a job, hoping to support his family, especially after his mother’s illness.

A struggle for treatment

Intisar’s health problems began when one day she felt sudden chest pain, her arm went numb, and she was unable to breathe. All the family members told her it is nothing serious, but she knew the signs. “I knew I was having a heart attack,” she told MAP.

She ran out to the street and tried to stop a taxi to take her to the nearest hospital. Intisar waited there for a long time before her neighbor saw her and, realising she was unwell, took her to hospital.

When she arrived, the staff gave Intisar medicine but refused to admit her because the hospital was not equipped to receive advanced cases. Intisar went to another hospital, but at first they refused to receive her because she could not pay a down-payment. Hours later, a good-willed person interfered and convinced the hospital to admit her anyway, promising that Intisar’s family would bring the admission approval form from UNRWA the next morning.

Diagnostic tests showed that Intisar’s main coronary artery was 99% blocked. An urgent arterial bypass graft surgery was therefore necessary. Intisar stayed at the Intensive Care Unit for five days. 

Her family were devastated when they found out that the hospital bill was US$9,000. She says healthcare in Syria was almost free, and so they never worried about getting sick. She recalls when several years ago she had given birth to a baby girl in Syria, who stayed for two weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit before passing away. Intisar said that would have not been able to give her the care she needed at that time if they had been in Lebanon.

MAP’s support

Luckily, with the support of MAP’s Lebanon Humanitarian Fund grant and UNRWA, most of Intisar’s surgery costs were settled. “It would have been impossible for us to pay such an amount of money. We were hardly able to pay for food and rent,” Intisar explained. Intisar’s mother, with tears in her eyes, told MAP that this support helped save her daughter’s life and brought her back to her family.

According to Intisar, in the past few years most of her family members suffered health problems which they attribute to the stressful life in Lebanon and their concern about those who stayed in Syria. She says many patients often have to choose between buying a medicine and providing food or shelter for her children: “A mother always prioritizes her children even if it is at the expense of her own health.”

*Name changed to protect identity 


 If you would like to support MAP’s work providing healthcare to Palestinian refugees, please donate today.

You can also join our campaign calling for equal humanitarian protection for Palestinians fleeing the war in Syria by signing our petition.

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