1704250943 In Lebanon hospitals are on alert due to the threat

In Lebanon, hospitals are on alert due to the threat of war

On Friday, October 13, 2023, paramedics carry a journalist injured by an Israeli fire in the border village of Alma El-Chaab to the hospital in the southern Lebanese port city of Tire. Medics carry a journalist injured by Israeli fire in the border village of Alma El-Chaab to hospital in the southern Lebanese port city of Tire, Friday, October 13, 2023. HASSAN AMMAR / AP

Doctor Mounès Kalakech, director of the Marjeyoun public hospital in southeast Lebanon, has been living in an atmosphere of war since the border conflicts between Hezbollah and the Israeli army began on October 8. More than seventy people were brought to his facility, which also serves the surrounding area. For employees who live outside Marjeyoun, “the route to the hospital is dangerous due to the Israeli bombing,” explains the doctor reached by telephone. The big city is not empty, but “more than 60% of the residents have left it to seek refuge in safe regions”.

Violent attacks on both sides of the demarcation line are commonplace. According to statements made by his spokesman on December 29, 2023, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres fears that these “gunfights (…) could trigger a broader escalation between Israel and Lebanon.” The Jewish state's leaders are increasingly threatening to expand the fighting and say their army is ready.

If all-out war breaks out, the Marjeyoun Hospital, located very close to the border, could exist “autonomously for a month,” estimates Doctor Kalakech. Medicines and heating oil for operating the electricity generators were distributed to him in particular by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

A minimum of self-sufficiency

Ensuring a minimum level of self-sufficiency is a priority of the emergency unit, activated since hostilities began by Firas Abiad, the health minister in the resigned government of Najib Mikati. “During the 2006 war, Israel bombed bridges and roads from the first days; The Lebanese regions found themselves isolated. “We fear that this scenario will be repeated in the event of an escalation,” explains Wahida Ghalayini, head of nursing at the Beirut public hospital and coordinator of the emergency cell, which is located in the ministry's premises in a suburb of the capital. In the operating room, televisions are constantly playing, broadcasting images from southern Lebanon and Gaza.

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The “July War” seventeen years ago took Lebanon by surprise. Israel launched attacks after Hezbollah kidnapped two soldiers in a deadly ambush. But at that time, hospitals had more human and material resources. The severe Lebanese financial crisis since 2019 has weakened the sector: doctors and nurses have left; Public sector resources have collapsed.

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