Throughout the world, prematurity is the leading cause of death in children under five. About one million babies die from preterm birth complications each year.
According to the World Health Organizations, in almost all countries with data, premature birth rates are increasing. Prematurity is also more likely to afflict poorer segments of the population within countries.
What’s worse is that the majority of these deaths could have been prevented with adequate health care. Yet health care is out of reach for many poor families, and especially for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
NGOs estimate that around 18,000 preterm babies are born each year in Lebanon. Half of them are Syrian babies—showing that premature birth is more prevalent among refugees than in the local population.
Donated Medicine Helps Lebanese Hospital Cope with Premature Births
One of the well-known public health care facilities is Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut. “Around 60 percent of our patients are Syrian refugees, and 40 percent are Lebanese,” said Dr. Imad Shokor, head of pediatrics at the hospital.
“On average, the hospital delivers around 400 Lebanese and Syrian babies each month,” said Dr. Shokor. “In many cases there are complications either with the newborn, the mother, or both, and this keeps the intensive care unit at pediatrics very busy.”
This spring, the hospital received an in-kind medical aid donation of Survanta, an essential medicine for breathing complications in preterm babies. “Survanta saves the lives of premature babies, and it costs around $500 per vial,” said Shokor. The medicine was developed in the early 1980s, but it was not available in Lebanon until 2004.
“Survanta is an item that we cannot run out of, because it’s a lifesaving medicine” said Raeda Bitar, the hospital’s head pharmacist.
“These in-kind donations address some of the challenges we face in the pediatrics department, and the hospital in general,” added Dr. Shokor. “There are many challenges that impact our ability to provide the necessary care for our patients, especially due to limited financial resources.”
Survanta was part of a shipment donated by Direct Relief and delivered to public hospitals by Anera in collaboration with the YMCA.