Tens of thousands of people have fled Syria to escape fighting. Now living in cramped, unsanitary conditions in neighbouring countries, some refugees are falling ill. We are helping our partner Caritas Lebanon scale up their response to the crisis.
Doctor Simon Kolanjian is a pediatrician who travels in a Caritas Lebanon mobile clinic to treat refugee children. He speaks about what he’s seen since the clinic on wheels started in May 2012.
How are Syrian refugee children doing?
The children are malnourished. They come to us and they’re weak and thin.
A lot of kids have diarrhoea. The water isn’t clean. I tell them to boil it. We need to tell them how to use water. The infections go up in summer. We can’t keep giving them antibiotics if the water’s bad. We must address the root cause.
There are also upper respiratory infections, lice, fungal infections.
How many kids do you usually see in a typical day?
I saw 22 children in one place yesterday, then ten in another.
What are some challenges you face?
We have antibiotics but we always need more. We also need antibiotic ointment and allergy ointments. And children’s multivitamins. We ran out of oral rehydration salts recently, but I reordered.
We give out our medicine for free, but some of the refugees have chronic conditions like asthma or epilepsy and we don’t have drugs for those. So when I prescribe something, some refugees say, “How can you write me a prescription if I can’t afford to pay for the medicine?”
What motivates you to do this work?
I like humanitarian work. I’m helping people. They need this help–they don’t have anyone looking after them. I like to help anyone, no matter what religion they are.
We must help as much as we can. Each person who does good, this good will be remembered. That’s what will remain after we die.
This interview first appeared on the Caritas International blog