5 May 2020 | Beirut – The Ambassador of the European Union in Lebanon, Ralph Tarraf, announced today that the European Union is donating 15 million euros to the World Health Organization to support the health system in Lebanon, with a main focus on access to essential medications to those who need it for the coming two years. With this support, around 95,000 people from among the most vulnerable Lebanese and refugees will be able to receive on time and for free the chronic disease medications they need, and 350,000 people using the national primary health care centres will benefit from medications for acute conditions. This announcement took place during the Ambassador’s visit to the chronic diseases medications warehouse that is managed by the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), during a handover of medications to primary healthcare facilities.   

The COVID-19 pandemic comes at a time where the Lebanese people and others in Lebanon are affected by a severe socio-economic crisis. With the decrease in purchasing power and increase in unemployment rates, coupled with a global economic crisis precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are struggling to make ends meet. Unmet needs in healthcare can rapidly increase mortality and morbidity and jeopardize the health-related Sustainable Development Goals. 

“We’ve seen how this unprecedented public health crisis is further straining the healthcare system everywhere. In Lebanon like elsewhere many people every day rely on the availability of essential medications to treat their chronic or acute conditions. This allows them to continue to live, be productive and be there for their families. Without these medicines, their treatable conditions would become life threatening. We cannot afford to lose human lives unnecessarily. We stand together with Lebanon at this critical time. Through our donation essential medications will continue to be available to those in need”, said Ambassador Tarraf.

Chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions are among the highest and most costly causes of mortality and morbidity in Lebanon. They are estimated to account for 91% of deaths. 

“I trust the medications here. They [the medications] are essential because you cannot get out of having diabetes or blood pressure issues. What these centres offer [in terms of chronic medications] is helping a lot of people, especially since [economic] conditions in the country are getting worse. More and more people rely on these centres and programs”, said Maryam, who has been part of the program for 15 years. 

The European Union remains the biggest donor supporting the Lebanese healthcare system and access to essential chronic disease medications since 2014. Strengthening the healthcare system has been a top priority with a focus on ensuring quality people-centred care, improved health system management, sufficient and skilled health workforce, and access to essential medications and technologies. Recently, to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in Lebanon, the European Union stepped up its support to its health partners, to ensure the continuity of critical healthcare, to raise awareness and to finance the purchase of protective equipment and hygiene items.

The World Health Organization gratefully acknowledges the financial contribution of the EU towards strengthening the healthcare system and ensuring that vulnerable Lebanese and Syrians have access to essential medications, especially during the coronavirus outbreak. This is a key component of sustainable development, paving the road to universal health coverage and addressing inequities in society”, said Dr Iman Shankiti, WHO Representative in Lebanon. 

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