19 October 2015

Lebanon’s landscape of refugee despair

Middle East Eye

The view from the mental health room at the new Doctors Without Borders (MSF) clinic in the Lebanese town of Majdal Anjar showcases a scene typical of today’s Bekaa Valley. In the distance, a tented settlement housing refugees from Syria is featured against a mountainous backdrop, beyond which lies the Syrian city of Zabadani. This summer, battle sounds from the city reverberated across Majdal Anjar.

As we sit by the window, Tarek Baydoun - one of MSF’s volunteer mental health counselors - mentions an occasional fear that a stray missile will come flying over the mountain. (It wouldn’t be the first case of a direct hit on an MSF healthcare centre, that achievement having already been accomplished by the recent US airstrikes on the organisation’s hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.)
Indeed, for the estimated two million Syrian refugees currently residing in Lebanon, it’s been difficult to put much distance between themselves and the homeland - either physically or psychologically.
According to Baydoun, who often sees four or more patients per day, the most common psychological afflictions facing Syrian refugees involve depression and severe anxiety. In children, enuresis - or bedwetting - is a frequent manifestation of mental strife. The causes of mental troubles, Baydoun says, have to do not only with stressful and traumatic experiences accumulated in war-torn Syria but also with difficulties adjusting to the new reality in Lebanon, where refugees have been given a less-than-warm reception. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.