After a year with no stable government in place, Lebanon is experiencing one of the worst economic crises in the world. As a result, the dwindling supplies of fuel and medicine have pushed the country’s health care system to the brink. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are directly affected by the crisis and are gravely concerned about the continued provision of essential health care services in the country.
“Hospitals are already having to ration their services and prioritize patients,” said Joao Martins, MSF head of mission in Lebanon. “People could now die from totally avoidable—and otherwise easily treatable— causes, just because hospitals don’t have electricity, the right supplies, or staff.”
The economic crisis hasn’t just destroyed people’s purchasing power and spurred unprecedented inflation. It has also impacted the Lebanon’s ability to import essential goods, including fuel. Hospitals are experiencing daily power outages lasting hours because of cuts in the national electricity grid and shortages of diesel fuel for backup generators.
MSF is not immune to these power shortages. Our hospital in Bar Elias, in the Bekaa Valley, recently faced a power cut that lasted over 44 hours across a three-day period, forcing our medical team to reduce surgical operations by 50 percent and ration fuel use to respond to emergencies.
To make matters worse, referrals for specialist care—for which our teams rely on other hospitals—are becoming increasingly difficult as these facilities stop non-emergency care to save on fuel. One of the public hospitals that our teams normally refer patients to recently informed us that they could no longer receive patients from our facilities because they had shut down their psychiatric ward in a desperate effort to minimize power usage.