March 11, 2018

Her neighbors call her “Oum Malek.” Oum Malek, 45, fled from Aleppo at the beginning of the Syrian crisis. She now lives with her husband and two kids in  the Saadnayel Valley, in one of Lebanon’s many informal settlements. 

For many years, Oum Malek has suffered from an obstetric disease. However, the impact of the crisis made it very difficult for her to access the needed medical services in Syria, as the roads to access the hospital were closed. 

She thought that when she reached Lebanon, she would finally be able to access treatment: “When I crossed the borders to reach Lebanon, I felt that I will be able to meet my all basic needs including healthcare, but the situation here is more worse than Syria.”

To address her health condition, Oum Malek needed surgery, which is very difficult to access in Lebanon for refugees.

“I need to walk for one hour to reach a pharmacy,” she said. In addition to the distance of medical facilities, medical care is also very expensive. 

“My walking and movement became impaired due to the inability to access treatment, I have back pain  all the time, I feel disabled and helpless and I cannot serve my family,” she said prior to her surgery. 

Because of the sensitivity of her health condition, Oum Malek was unable to meet her family’s needs. She was tired all the time, she could not move easily, she was isolated in her tent and she reduced her social interactions and connections. NGOs providing health services in Lebanon for Syrian refugees do not cover the expenses for surgery, and the hospitals contracted with the UNHCR or with the Ministry of Health do not provide it for free. 

“I contacted many organizations, they only give me medications, however, alternative treatments including surgeries are not available,” she said.

By chance, Oum Malek heard about SAMS OBGYN mission in Lebanon and she was informed about doctors available in the camps. She was screened by a specialist and referred to the hospital to benefit from the free surgeries provided by SAMS. 

“I was very surprised, it is the first time that I visit a doctor who gives me his time and his attention, he is aware about my situation and he supports me directly,” she said of her experience with the volunteers on the medical mission.

Our SAMS OBGYN volunteers met Oum Malek during the OBGYN mission to Lebanon.  By the end of the mission, we had provided 58 surgeries and 613 consultations, as well as other public health interventions. Our team of volunteers was based in the Bekaa Valley, Tripoli, and Akkar, screening patients, providing check-ups and providing critical surgeries.