A large number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan who suffer from chronic renal failure have been receiving dialysis care subsidized by organizations like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and the Syrian Expatriate Medical Association (SEMA). A dialysis session costs up to $100 in Lebanon, and $65 in Jordan. For most refugees in both countries, the needed three weekly dialysis sessions may be difficult to afford.
In April 2018, SAMS stopped covering treatment costs for dialysis patients in Lebanon due to funding cuts. While 121 patients who began their treatment in February 2017 are exempted from this change, treatment for 97 patients was interrupted. This interruption will lead to a severe deterioration in their physical and psychological health, with a high risk of a complete shutdown of bodily systems and death.
Additionally, at the end of March 2018, the Qatar Red Crescent and SEMA were forced to stop their dialysis services, leaving 129 patients without access to treatment. Abdel Razzaq, a 14-year-old Syrian refugee living in Lebanon, was born with kidney failure. SAMS has been covering his three weekly dialysis sessions at a Lebanese hospital in the Beqaa Valley. However, with the recent funding cuts, his mother fears that her son will not have access to lifesaving treatment.
Aisha Ibrahim, a 79-year-old Syrian refugee living in Jordan has end-stage kidney disease and requires three dialysis sessions per week. Funding cuts threaten to virtually eliminate her access to treatment as she is unable to afford basic healthcare services, and she is now at risk of a serious deterioration in her condition.
Similarly, Abd Rahman Al-Jedan, 20 years old, is a Syrian refugee in Jordan with kidney disease caused by diabetes. By the time he was 18 years old, he had gone blind due to complications from his illness. In order to stay alive, Al-Jedan needs three dialysis sessions per week. “It is painful, and it makes me very tired”, Al-Jedan says, “but that is how I stay alive now.” Dialysis care in Jordan has suffered from funding cuts since the beginning of May, which puts Al-Jedan’s life in danger as neither he nor his mother, a widow with six children, are able to pay for the treatment without assistance from relief organizations.
The Norwegian Aid Committee, the Union of Relief and Development Associations, and the Health Care Society have identified, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 206 Syrian refugees and 12 Palestinian refugees in need of treatment for kidney failure in Lebanon. Subsidized health care services provided by organizations like the Qatar Red Crescent, SEMA and UNHCR do not fully cover treatment costs for chronic diseases like kidney failure.
WHO also found that a program developed by the Norwegian Aid Committee covers treatment for 114 of these patients, while the remaining receive treatment covered by NGOs such as SAMS, Kuwait Red Crescent and Caritas.
Syrian refugees who had fled Syria face hard challenges to receive basic medical services, including dialysis, due to their high cost and the lack of funding. The obstacles to these services threaten refugees’ health and quality of life; an interruption in their treatment will lead to serious consequences and may result in their death. Defenders for Medical Impartiality (DMI) echoes calls for the establishment of a special fund for dialysis treatment with financial support from state actors and the international community to ensure those struggling with chronic renal failure receive the life-saving healthcare they need.