Baskinta is one of Lebanon's most beautiful villages. Forty-five kilometers from Beirut, it sits at an altitude of 1,350 meters, right at the foot of Mount Sannine. In the Syriac language, baskinta means ‘house of serenity.’ But this story is not exactly about Lebanon’s beauty; it is about health and collaboration.
Anera’s team recently visited the Mar Sassine convent, built in 1729 and still home to 10 nuns. Anera’s medical donations staff are following up on multivitamins (magnesium, calcium + vitamin D3, and vitamin B complex) and medicines that are part of a larger shipment donated by Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC) through Anera.
The Saint Sassine Medical Center was established in 1983, says Sister Teresa Habibi, head of the Mar Sassine Parish in Baskinta. It has grown and developed a lot since then and now includes many departments: a lab, pediatrics, language correction, physical therapy and gynecology.
Because of the pandemic and its safety measures, the center currently provides health services to 170 people every month, double their pre-COVID numbers. And like for most of Lebanon’s health care providers, the past two years have been a struggle to remain afloat.
“We went through a medicinal drought in 2020, but with the support of organizations like Anera, our situation has started improving. Having stocks of multivitamins, blood pressure and diabetes medicines is such a relief. These items have become too expensive and the Ministry of Health is not providing enough of them,” says Sister Habibi.
The center offers pro-bono services and medications most of the time. They always try their best to provide free medication to all of their patients. Through HPIC’s donation and Anera’s support, the center will be able to prescribe free medicines for an entire month.
“I have been using the vitamins for about a month. They are great quality. I can really feel an improvement after using them. I don’t feel as much pain in my bones and I have more energy. I also haven’t noticed any negative side effects,” says Enaam, a 45-year-old mother of two and employee of the center.
Anera’s team could not interview the center’s patients because of safety measures that are in place to protect the older patients at the center from any unnecessary risk of contracting COVID-19. But Enaam, being a patient and healthcare professional herself, had a lot to say.
“The economic meltdown and the pandemic really affected our daily life, at home and at work. Every single activity has become harder to do. At the center, we are struggling to get many medicines. Poof, they are nowhere to be found! Too expensive to be imported! Everything has become expensive, even life.”
“There is still a shortage of some medicines in the center, such as heart meds, blood pressure meds, diabetes treatments, and many vitamins. Most of our patients are elderly and live in the nearby village. Recently, some patients have had to go to Beirut or wait for weeks to get their medications. If you ask me, that is too much effort to require of someone in the golden years of their lives.”
“Everything has become expensive, even life.”
The benefits of HPIC’s shipment of multivitamins extends beyond the patients of the Mar Sassine Medical Center. Anera also distributed it to several of our local primary health care partners, including the Amel Association and the Child and Mother Welfare Society.
The importance of these vitamins and supplements should not be underestimated. Pregnant women particularly need them for the health of their babies, for example. Anera also delivered the co-enzyme Q10 that’s used for patients with high cholesterol levels, says Dr. Jamie Bejjanie, a pharmacist and medical donations coordinator with Anera.
“I would like to thank you for helping our parish. Things are difficult, but we have faith and, with your aid, we will be able to keep on going and helping others,” says Sister Habibi.