Improving Lebanese-Syrian relations through healthcare provision

International Alert convened local healthcare officials and organisations in the Bekaa region of Lebanon to discuss the pressures the Syrian refugee crisis is placing on this sector and wider social stability.

The meeting, which was part of our new project called “Access to Health as a Tool for Conflict Prevention, took place in the Kamed el Loz municipality of the Bekaa, which hosts over 3,000 displaced Syrians. It was attended by representatives from the municipality, local NGOS and the Ministry of Social Affairs.

“The project is designed in partnership with Lebanese NGO Amel Association International (Amel) to operate in Mount Lebanon, Bekaa and South of Lebanon”, said Layal Assaad from our Lebanon team. “It aims to decrease tension and integrate trust-building between host and refugee communities through improving conflict sensitivity and social cohesion in health services.”

Amel is one of the biggest Lebanese NGOs, operating 13 health and social centres across the country. During the meeting, participants provided a shared analysis of the situation in the Bekaa region and came up with practical recommendations and a roadmap for coordinating efforts.

They agreed that unfair distribution of services (such as education and healthcare) is the main problem driving tensions between Syrian refugees and Lebanese communities. Interventions, projects and services provided by different local and international organisations have not been ensuring equality and fairness between both of these groups.

“Participants showed a high level of interest in the coordination meeting and they agreed on being practical and straightforward in their analysis in order to come up with efficient recommendations to improve their work in the area”, added Assaad.

We are helping Amel staff to understand the causes of conflict and tensions and be better equipped to improve relations between Lebanese and Syrian communities. We have developed a section for their nursing curriculum on dealing with conflict in the waiting room, and helped prepare trainings for health and social workers on stress management, conflict resolution and dialogue, and communication skills.

Following these trainings, Amel’s social workers started delivering health awareness sessions to mixed groups of Lebanese and Syrians, creating a space for participants to get to know each other.

Explore these challenges further in our photo story on Conflict in the waiting room.