Refugee Day

There is no typical refugee in Lebanon, too

by David Zorn,  2019/09/27

„Refugee!“ A word, which has been on everyone´s lips for years now – since in 2015 hundred thousands of people came to Germany seeking protection. Then „refugee“ stopped to be a distanced technical term used in the news, the consequences of war and the migration movements it caused became visible for everyone. Since then much has been written and reported about refugees, in particular about the largest group in numbers, the war refugees from Syria.

But what kind of human being is a typical refugee and how does his or her life looks like? Does a „typical“ refugee exist at all? David Zorn is responsible for humedica´s refugee work in Lebanon. On the occasion of the Refugee Day he tries to give his personal statement on this topic.

Children in an unofficial tent camp in Lebanon. Photo: Christoph Jorda

2015 - Germany: hundreds of thousands Syrian refugees arrive in Germany. Many of us still remember the pictures taken at the Munich main station, where, on a single day, sometimes more than hundred refugees have been welcomed and distributed swiftly all over Germany. Many refugees had lost everything except the things they could carry. Many travelled alone, separated from their families. Outsiders can only imagine their traumatizing flight experiences. The Germany state could at least cover their basic material needs: an accommodation, clothes and something to eat.

2017 - Beirut in Lebanon, in the living room of my residential community: I do a semester abroad at the French university in Beirut and am just having breakfast, Arabian coffee and bread, with my Syrian housemate Hussein*. Hussein has fled from the Syrian civil war because otherwise he would have died sooner or later, so he says. In Lebanon Syrian refugees do not receive state support, but he enjoys the peace prevailing in the Syrian neighbor country. He accepts every job, which comes his way: no matter if bartending or teaching Arabic. The money is always tight at the end of the month, but somehow he has to get on.

2017 - Beirut in the Lea lecture hall in the Université Saint-Joseph: I am the sole exchange student and together with 20 other students I follow the lecture „International finance market instruments“. Among the students there are two Syrians, Maryam* and Elyssa*. They are here to complete bachelors in macroeconomics. They are wearing expensive clothes and speak fluent English and French. Taking into account that they study at this expensive private university for the entire length to get their bachelor, they are probably a lot better off than me. I can only pay the university fees for one single exchange semester thanks to a scholarship and other sponsoring. They can not go back to Syria. But this does not seem be a major problem for them anyway, both of them have already planned to immigrate to France after their graduation.

Our humedica colleague visits the refugee camp in Lebanon. Photo: humedica

2019 – an unofficial tent camp somewhere in the Bekaa valley in Eastern Lebanon: In the meantime I have started to work for humedica and am responsible for our Lebanon project, which aims to improve the medical care for Syrian refugees. I mainly work at the humedica headquarters in Kaufbeuren, Germany, but I also visit regularly the project on site.

I am sitting with Samira* in her tent. She has fled with her family from Syria and now lives in the Syrian-Lebanese border region. Full of gratitude, she tells me of her luck to work as a volunteer health multiplicator in the unofficial tent camps. She visits other refugees in the camps and provides medical services such as blood pressure measurements. She also passes on her knowledge to other female health multiplicators, who train small groups of tent camp inhabitants in different medical topics. This work offers her the possibility to serve the refugee community and to do something worthwhile. As a woman, this also gives her the possibility to leave the camp from time to time.

Regularly, humedica practitioners work in the camps. Photo: Christoph Jorda

The living conditions in the camps are precarious. The refugees live in tents instead of solid houses. Hygiene conditions and power supply are challenging. In the winter, the situation becomes even more dramatic due to snowfall and rain. They long to return home, to Syria, but the ongoing war and the destruction of the country´s infrastructure render this impossible.

Well now, who is a typical refugee?

The answer is: there is no “typical“ refugee. The fates are as manifold as the people themselves. Behind the enormous refugee numbers individual people are hidden with completely diverse lives and stories. The one thing they have in common: they can not live at home. But their needs are all different.

Since 2012humedica supports the most needy Syrian refugees in the Lebanon. At the moment we help to ensure the health care for both Syrian refugees in the unofficial tent camps and indigent Lebanese. We support local health stations and offer medical help in our mobile clinic on site. We do not only treat physical injuries, we also offer psychological help for the often forgotten mental suffering of those, who had to run from war and destruction.

The already precarious living conditions in the camps get worse in the winter due to snowfall and rain. Photo: humedica

2019 – once again in the Bekaa valley, this time in the humedica accommodation: nobody knows when the war will be over and when the refugees will be able to return. We all, employees of humanitarian organizations, receiving countries and, above all, the refugees, hope that this will not take too long. Then, on that all the international helpers agree, we will go to Syria to support the reconstruction. Until then, we continue to work side by side with the refugees in Lebanon.

*names changed

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