Medical services when most needed
Providing free medical care for the people of South Lebanon is nothing new for UNIFIL. Helping and supporting local communities has been an integral part of UNIFIL’s activities since 2007. Nevertheless, given the dire economic crisis that the people of Lebanon have been facing for the past two years, such free medical services are now even more welcome and desperately needed.
Lieutenant Colonel Diletta Luisi, the head of the medical team of UNIFIL’s Italian contingent, visits one to two villages in UNIFIL’s area of operations every week. This time Dr. Luisi and her team provided medical services in Ma’arake village’s municipal building.
The waiting room was filled with patients young and old, men and women, all patiently waiting to be seen by Dr. Luisi. The Italian military doctor explains: “Since my last mission 5 years ago, the situation in Lebanon has changed. Now in Lebanon there is an economic crisis. The population cannot get medical examinations and cannot afford to buy medicine.”
That is the harsh reality staring the residents of Ma’arake in the face on a daily basis. Furthermore, Ma’arake’s mayor, Mr. Aadel Saad, points out that without UNIFIL’s medical services villagers must travel to the nearest city Tyr, which lies a good half an hour away by car. Given the cost of fuel these days most people opt not to go, making these free services even more vital for the community.
The most common ailments treated by Dr. Luisi are breathing problems, burns, fever and mycosis. “Actually, I come here to do a checkup for my son. He has redness in his eyes, fever, and for the last two days he cannot sleep well”, said Diana Hussein who came to the makeshift clinic for the first time.
Zainab Saad, who has seen UNIFIL’s medical teams several times before brought her father: “He has diabetes, plus a disease called bahjat, it is related to lack of immunity. The symptoms are increasing in his hands and legs. Also, I have a cold, and it has been ongoing for the last 20 days.”
Adjacent to Dr. Luisi’s examination room, Doctor Ahmad Ghandour, who works with the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs was also providing medical care for patients.
Dr. Ghandour puts thing into perspective: “With the Italian contingent we share a long journey and cooperation. Their headquarters used to be located here in Ma’arake. They helped us a lot through social work and particularity through their medical services. We hope that this cooperation with the Italian contingent continues and expands.”
For Dr. Luisi, her time in Lebanon is quickly reaching its end. She reflects on her time in South Lebanon with a heavy heart. “For me it is the third time that I come to Lebanon. It is a nation that I have had in my heart since 2012. Lebanon is very similar to Puglia, the Italian region from which I come, both for the climate conditions and the friendliness of the population. I hope I have made a little but important contribution to Lebanon. Long live Lebanon, and long live the cordial and hospitable people who will remain in my heart forever.”
It is fair to say that Dr. Luisi will be missed as well. But with each new rotation a new medical team will arrive, whether with the Italians or UNIFIL’s other troop contributing countries. They will pick up where Dr. Luisi and her team left off to continue UNIFIL’s support to the local population.