What can a donation of $300 buy?

As part of our series reporting from Lebanon, we follow your donations from Dubai to the refugee camp doorstep 

It will keep a premature baby alive in an incubator for one day

In the early months of the Syrian conflict, the rooms of the Dr Ferhat Hospital in Joub Jannine were filled with war wounded, not fighters, but innocent civilians caught in the crosshairs of their own government. Now the 72-bed facility, just ten minutes from the Syrian border to the east, faces a new challenge: the welfare of tens of thousands of refugees who have settled in the area and come knocking on the hospital’s doors each day.

Dr Mohamad Hamed Farhat is a partner at the hospital his father founded. He spends part of his days treating patients, and the rest negotiating with family members and GlobeMed, a UNHCR partner that provides medical assistance to registered refugees.

Through GlobeMed, a private healthcare firm, the UNHCR covers 75 per cent of all primary healthcare treatments, up to a ceiling of $15,000. This covers essential treatment including emergency and life-saving interventions, as well as pre-natal and post-natal care.

Around 20 cases are admitted each day and today there are a throng of visitors and patients in the hospital’s reception area. Among them is Khalaf, 69, a former construction worker whose three-year-old daughter is a patient at Dr Ferhat’s. Doua’a sliced two of her tendons wide open reaching to pick up a broken cup; her hand has been operated on successfully, however there remains the matter of the unsettled bill. Khalaf has been unable to find work in the 12 months since he, his wife and their nine children came to Lebanon, and they have been able to raise only $200 of the $500 they owe for their daughter’s operation. The hospital and the father have reached an impasse.

“I did not realise how much the bill would be,” says Khalaf. “If we had known yesterday how much it would cost then we would have gone back to Syria and had it done there. That would have cost us $200, maybe $300, including travel.”

Dr Ferhat, meanwhile, is left at a loss. “There are medical, legal, financial and human issues at stake,” he says. “Every day we have people coming to us begging for operations and treatments, and we are trying to help people but there is a limit. I cannot afford to pay from this from my own pocket, or from hospital funds.

“It’s very difficult, but what can you do? You can’t close the doors,” he continues. “I feel depressed but we have to continue, we have to stand up. We can’t turn people away, as it’s not moral. However, we’re losing money for [these treatments] and we should not be doing this.”

If the limitations of funding are evident in primary healthcare, then they are brutally apparent in the case of secondary and tertiary care, which the UNHCR and its partners are not able to cover to any degree.

“We simply do not have enough funds to provide care for chronically ill patients: hospital care, secondary and tertiary medical care is beyond our means,” says Ninette Kelley at UNHCR. “Serious and life-threatening conditions are going untreated and it’s very sad,” she continues. “Children are unable to receive cancer treatments because we cannot afford it: treatment for one child can cost up to $100,000, and with that same money we can provide primary healthcare treatment to 10,000 children. We are constantly making difficult choices.”

“Cancer patients don’t come here because they know the situation,” confirms Dr Ferhat, quietly. “At first some patients came but when they saw the price of treatments they left. We don’t see them any more. Not at all.”