Syrian refugees in Lebanon face health care crisis - Amnesty

Syrian refugees at Lebanese border town of Arsal, in eastern Bekaa Valley. March 2014 Syrian refugees face a desperate situation as they flee the fighting

Amnesty International says a shortfall in international support has left many Syrian refugees in Lebanon unable to access crucial medical care.

A new report says some refugees have resorted to returning to Syria to receive the treatment they need.

More than one million Syrians have fled to Lebanon to escape the fighting in their country.

The UN says there are now 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees and the number is still rising.

Large numbers have been taken in by Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and other countries, but Lebanon is bearing the biggest burden of all.

In March the Lebanese foreign minister said the crisis was "threatening the existence" of his country.

The UN has appealed to international donors for $4.2bn (£2.4bn) for Syrian refugees in 2014 but has only received 24% of that sum.

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Syrian refugees in numbers
  • 2.73 million registered Syrian refugees
  • More than 70,000 awaiting registration
  • 1.07 million refugees in Lebanon
  • 748,000 refugees in Turkey
  • 596,000 refugees in Jordan

Source: UNHCR

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Amnesty's report, entitled Agonizing Choices: Syrian refugees in need of health care in Lebanon, says there are serious gaps in the level of medical services available to refugees.

It says that in some cases refugees have been turned away from hospitals, including patients requiring emergency treatment.

"Hospital treatment and more specialised care for Syrian refugees in Lebanon is woefully insufficient, with the situation exacerbated by a massive shortage of international funding," said Audrey Gaughran, director of global thematic issues at Amnesty International.

Clinic in the town of Kab Elias in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. March 2014 There are more than 1 million refugees registered with the UNHCR in Lebanon

"Syrian refugees in Lebanon are suffering as a direct result of the international community's shameful failure to fully fund the UN relief programme in Lebanon."

The report says the health system in Lebanon is highly privatised and expensive, leaving many refugees reliant on care subsidised by the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR.

However, due to a shortage of funds the agency has had to introduce eligibility criteria for anyone in need of hospital treatment. The report says that even when refugees meet the tight criteria, most must pay 25% of the costs themselves.

"It's time for the international community to recognise the consequences of its failure to provide adequate assistance to refugees from the conflict in Syria," said Ms Gaughran.

"There is a desperate need for countries to fulfil the humanitarian appeal for Syria and step up efforts to offer resettlement places for the most vulnerable of refugees, including those in dire need of medical treatment."

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