September 21, 2017

Last year, a Lebanese woman arrived  to the SAMS polyclinic in the Bekaa Valley, asking for an urgent appointment with me as internist for her father.

“The clinic is so crowded but I can wait, ” she said.

I examined her father, an 85 year old man struggling with chronic liver disease.

“Have you had any consultations before?”

“Yes,” she replied, telling me that he had even been admitted to the hospital and discharged without any signs of improvement.  After conducting several tests, including an ascitic tap, I discovered that her father had cirrhosis and hepatitis C. Despite the sad new she had just learned, she was thankful  and grateful for the service we provided for her father at the  SAMS clinic.

“My cousin recommend this clinic for me after I did many consultations for my mother but without any result. My cousin said the physicians at this clinic are professionals. ”  

I gave her instructions and medications and set an appointment with the next Gastroenterologist during SAMS Gastroscopy mission. I followed up with his case, and was happy to find that his condition improved and was doing well.  

This was not the last time I saw his daughter. Some time after, I ran into her and her mother at SAMS physiotherapy center. Her mother suffered from a CVA (cerebrovascular accident) and hemiplegia. She was so relieved and grateful for the physiotherapy services.

She also gets psychology consultations at SAMS Mental Health Clinic. Her older brother has diabetes and follows up with the specialists at SAMS Diabetes project in Lebanon.

In some way, her family members had all benefitted from a wide variety of SAMS services. SAMS provides more than 13,500 health services per month in Lebanon, and 11% of our beneficiaries are Lebanese. Many of the SAMS physicians in Lebanon, including myself, are from Syria. We’ve been forced to flee our homes and communities for safety in neighboring  countries, and we are grateful for the chance to give back to our host communities.

There are more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, with only less than 10% living in informal settlements and the others living in houses paying for rent, services, food and other necessities. Many Syrian refugees living in Lebanon are physicians, teachers, engineers, in addition to professional carpenters, electricians and farmers.

Given the right opportunities and support, Syrian refugees could have an enormous impact, and help build up the host community. They do not only need shelter or food, they need opportunities for work.  Refugees are a great investment.

Dr. Ibahim Al-Masri is a Syrian physician, forced to flee to Lebanon in 2012 due to the Syrian conflict. There, he cofounded the NGO Multi Aid Programs (MAPS), was MAPS manager of health programs and medical director of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) in Lebanon. He now lives in Canada. Dr. Al-Masri embodies SAMS’s mission of providing care to anyone in need. SAMS services in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey benefit refugees as well as the local community. On International Day of Peace, we celebrate the theme of “Together for Peace”, as well as the many contributions of refugees to host communities.