Access to Healthcare for Refugee and Host Country Children

Lebanon is now host to the highest number of refugees per capita, most of whom have settled in urban or other non-camp areas. This population influx has placed an increased burden on Lebanon’s healthcare services, and with more than 50% of the refugee population under the age of 17 (UNHCR 2015), a greater challenge is posed in meeting the unique healthcare needs of the refugee population. Lebanon, as a primarily urban context, faces unique challenges that demand innovative solutions.

Urban refugee crisis response models coordinate aid and access to services within host communities, rather than providing them directly in traditional camp settings. This approach engages local CSOs, NGOs, government agencies and health facilities to create mechanisms and procedures that enable them to respond to the rising needs of the community and refugees within it. However, a drawback to this approach and an area where solutions are still needed, is improving equal access to services for all.

A study published in the Journal of International Humanitarian Action looks at unmet child health needs and how refugee and host country families utilize health services for their children in Lebanon. The article highlights a gap in the current approach that must be filled – in Lebanon, Syrian refugee children sought care far less than Lebanese children of the host communities due to high out-of-pocket payments. While out-of-pocket prices were high for both parties, they were technically lower for refugees than the host community. However, the out-of-pocket costs were still deemed too large of an expense for the refugee households in proportion to total income.

The study’s findings concluded that 92% of refugee households and nearly 70% of host country households who did not seek care for their children the last time it was needed did so because they could not afford the health services or medication. According to the study, these challenges to receiving proper health care are not projected to be solved in the near future due to shortfalls in humanitarian funding and decline of cash resources for refugee families as their displacement period draws on.

However, innovative, low-tech approaches to public health education activities like emphasis of home-treatment and self-care could lead to better decision-making and rationalization of when and where to access health services, and ultimately increase child health and lower costs from unnecessary doctor visits.

To read the whole study and a more complete account of methods and findings, click here.

Photo courtesy of International Medical Corps. See license here

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