Amin is 62 years old and currently lives with his wife, son, and grandchildren in Hay El Sellom, Beirut. Amin’s other three children are spread out between Lebanon and Syria. The distance has taken a toll. One of Amin’s sons disappeared four years ago in Syria, and he has not heard from him since. HelpAge provides psychosocial activities such as group counseling, peer-to-peer support, and social activities for older Syrian refugees as well members of the local Lebanese community. The inclusive program has improved access to health services for the community at large and helped alleviate tensions over strained resources.
“I got married in 1974. We used to live in Halfaya, Rif Hama back in Syria, but we sought refuge in Lebanon after the outbreak of the war. Our stay in Lebanon has gone on far longer than we had hoped. Our 3-month-plan back in 2013 has turned into a 5-years and counting. My son works in a factory, where I used to work when I was young. He gets a daily income of $20 USD and tries to manage our expenses, including our rent of $230 USD per month. With the heavy financial burden, we are perpetually on the verge of survival.
When I first arrived and registered in Lebanon, I had support from UNHCR, but this was cut more than a year ago. That was when my wife told me about the Amel Association (HelpAge local partner). They helped us with medical care and provided vocational training to my in-laws.
My medication for hypertension is no longer available at the center. I am not able to buy it anywhere else, so I now have constant headaches and trembling. I used to go to the health center once a month for doctor’s appointments and medication. It’s now been 5 months since I last went, because I can’t afford the $1.3 USD fee for the appointments. It’s hard to say, “I don’t have money,” so now I’m not doing any tests or taking any medications. My wife has health problems as well. She suffers from hypertension problems, and often falls down.
Even during my childhood, when I was growing up in an orphanage and had no parents, I still managed to keep my dignity. But here in these circumstances, my dignity has been shattered. People look at me and see only a refugee with no home.
Amin's outlook has improved after accessing psychosocial support services provided through HelpAge
That's why I started going to the center in Hay El Selloum--to forget my problems and sadness. Things got better after that. I met a lot of other Syrians here who have similar problems and backgrounds. Knowing I’m not alone made it easier for me to cope. We gather every week and play board games together. My psychosocial support sessions also started last year, and they have helped me a lot."
Amin with a few friends at the local community center in Hay El Selloum
The crisis in Syria has created one of the largest refugee movements in the past two decades. In Lebanon, refugees now represent over a third of the country’s total population. Health services are struggling to cope with the huge influx of additional patients. Under these circumstances older refugees often fall to the bottom of the list at overstretched clinics and are seldom prioritized in humanitarian programs. Meanwhile, many refugees are in urgent need of care and medicine for chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Joint research by HelpAge and Humanity & Inclusion found that 54% of older refugees in Lebanon and Jordan have a chronic health condition. HelpAge is working in Lebanon to build the capacity of local organizations to serve all refugees, especially those who are older.