Itidal has been waiting in the Volunteer Outreach Clinic (VOC) clinic for over an hour.
Originally from Jaffa, she is one of the thousands of Palestinians who have been stranded in Lebanon for over 60 years. She lives in Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, and has seen far too many tragedies. Despite all this, Itidal is always ready with a smile.
She has been coming to the VOC clinic for six years to treat a host of problems such as hypertension and diabetes, and she is on several medications. As a ‘foreigner’ in Lebanon, Itidal is ineligible for public health care. UNRWA (the U.N. Relief and Works Agency) does not have the resources to provide medicines for chronic diseases to the hundreds of thousands of refugees under their mandate. This leaves people like Itidal dependant on non-profit organizations like VOC and ANERA to get their medicines.
VOC receives most of their medicine through ANERA’s Medical In-Kind Program. In recent years they have had to stop accepting new patients because they are short on resources. They do not have a problem finding volunteers for the clinic, but they do need medicine and financial support to enable them to provide for more patients.
VOC was established in 2001 by medical students at the American University of Beirut and Lebanese American University (LAU). It is staffed entirely by volunteers who receive no salary. They operate the clinic once a week, on Saturday mornings, providing regular care to over 200 patients.
Ahmad Saad is typical of the energetic young professionals who are working in the clinic. Ahmad is a pharmacist who received his training at LAU. Four years ago, when he was doing his clinical work at LAU, he was asked by his professor to work at VOC for a day. He has been volunteering ever since.
The staff spend time with each patient, carefully going over their medical records and making sure that the prescriptions are correct. When asked why she came to VOC, Itidal said, “UNRWA clinics don’t have the medicines and other clinics charge [a small amount] for the medicine. The VOC staff are professional and respectful. And, Ahmad is wonderful.” Itidal does not mind waiting in the clinic for her turn. She clearly loves the staff and the others who visit the clinic. It is a community.