UNICEF is ensuring that Lebanese children with extreme health conditions are not left behind
The unprecedent economic stagnation has left newborns and their mothers the most vulnerable. UNICEF is providing lifesaving support to the public healthcare
Our children are our greatest treasure. When it comes to newborns, promoting their health and wellbeing requires strengthening quality of care. UNICEF has been working tirelessly to improve newborns’ healthcare and nutrition, especially for the most vulnerable families in Lebanon. However, this has been obstructed by severe inflations.
Rose is today a happy mother of twins Amadea and Maroun. But when she was seven months pregnant, Rose was admitted to the Karantina Governmental Hospital after suspicions that one of her babies, Maroun, was not receiving enough nutrition. After 18 days of monitoring the babies, her doctor decided to perform a caesarian section due to Maroun’s slow heart rate.
“My little boy did not have a chance to survive in my womb. I wanted him to fight for his life after the delivery”, said Rose.
The newborns Amadea and Maroun were born premature, and they needed intubation and special care. They stayed over 80 days in the hospital which resulted with enormous hospitalization cost. UNICEF, with the generous contribution of the Republic of Korea, and in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), is covering out of pocket contributions of the hospitalization bill, amounting to around 20 to 30 percent of the total bill, to ensure that families do not encounter catastrophic expenditures that compromise the life of their newborns and children.
Maroun’s health was critical, he caught several infections which threatened his life and was on continuous medications to manage his conditions . “It would have been impossible for us to cover this huge amount of money”, said Rose. “I was overwhelmed with joy the moment the hospital informed us that UNICEF will be covering the whole amount that we were due to pay for the hospitalization cost. My husband is a taxi driver, he relies on day-to-day bread to feed our family”, she added.
UNICEF’s support to ensure access to lifesaving healthcare was critical as many families have been struggling for many years to cope with economic crisis.
Hicham Fawaz, head of the Hospitals and Dispensaries Department at the Ministry of Public Health emphasizes the importance of covering the out-of-pocket expenditures for Lebanese children in need for lifesaving hospitalization in selected governmental hospitals. "This program played a crucial part in saving the lives of numerous children in Lebanon who were in critical conditions, and it strengthened the faith in the quality of life-saving services offered in government hospitals, especially given the current economic situation," said Hicham. “The Ministry acknowledges its partnership with UNICEF and is key to sustainable cooperation between the two parties”, he added.
Together with UNICEF, the Ministry identified four governmental hospitals with active Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) and Pediatric Intensive Care Units (PICU) that are also responding to high demand from the most vulnerable Lebanese populations.
Five months old Safi Bekaii also benefited from UNICEF’s programme. He was admitted to the Orange Nasso Hospital in Tripoli because of breathing problems and was later diagnosed with Hernia and needed surgery. Safi’s parents were very anxious thinking about the way to ensure the needed amount: “I was afraid of not being able to secure the money. I couldn’t sleep wondering what will happen to my child. We stayed in the hospital for 18 days. UNICEF’s support saved our life”, said Hassan, father of Safi.
Safi, along with other Lebanese children, has been selected through a social vulnerability assessment tool. Upon the child’s admission to NICU or PICU, a trained social worker evaluates the family’s status and shares the result with the Ministry of Public Health to identify he family’s eligibility for coverage under UNICEF program.
UNICEF’s intervention does not only encounter supporting caregivers with out-of-pocket hospital bills. The initiative also includes support for the public health system through the procurement of essential medications and supplies used in PICUs and NICUs that are instrumental to ensure high quality lifesaving services A landmark for the noninterrupted delivery of comprehensive care for newborns and children in the intensive care units.