Lebanon aid has yet to benefit hospitals

Relief from the truce between Israel and Lebanon has yet to trickle down to the stricken Lebanese healthcare sector, doctors have reported.

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By  Joanne Bladd Published  September 27, 2006

Relief from the truce between Israel and Lebanon has yet to trickle down to the stricken Lebanese healthcare sector, doctors have reported. Two thirds of hospitals in the region could “cease to function”, if supplies do not reach health workers soon, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. WHO spokesperson Dr Ala Alwan, told reporters: “Based on available information, more than half of the hospitals will not be able to operate for more than a week without supplies, and the situation will be much worse after that.” The director of one south Lebanon hospital, home to more than 250 schizophrenic patients, confirmed it is just days away from running out of Epanutin supplies. “We have very little left,” said Adela Dajani Labban, director of the private Al Fanar Mental Hospital based in a small village outside of Beirut. Staff nurse Hossam Mustafa, one of only six remaining staff, said doctors had been reducing dosages to patients in an attempt to conserve medication. “If we do not get more medicine soon we will be faced with a very difficult situation,” he said. Despite the end to hostilities, widespread areas of Lebanon remain cut off from aid supplies following the targeted bombing of road networks. Health workers have watched in dismay as the county’s fledgling vaccination and antiretroviral programmes have struggled under the threat of drug shortages. “Immunisation is vital in a crisis like this one,” said Unicef representative Roberto Laurenti. “The last thing these distressed and fearful families need is to have their children fall victim to a potentially fatal disease. “We very much hope that the urgency of the situation will be communicated to the relevant authorities and that vital shipments of the vaccines will be allowed in safely and on time.” Unicef has been working to vaccinate an initial target group of 18,000 children, aged up to 15 years, in the Beirut area. Another 55,000 children nationwide will be targeted within the month. Meanwhile, the Lebanon health ministry is fighting to maintain supplies of antiretroviral drugs to the country’s 918 registered HIV-positive people. “Patients need to take uninterrupted multiple doses of these drugs,” said Dr Mustafa al-Naqib, director of the health ministry’s National AIDS Programme. “If treatment is interrupted, then there is the short-term danger that they may develop resistance to treatment. “In one month, should the situation continue to deteriorate, HIV/AIDS patients’ problems will no doubt multiply.”

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