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LEBANON: MSF Starts Cholera Vaccination amid Threat of a Full-blown Spread of the Disease

22 Nov 2022

Médecins Sans Frontières /Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is contributing to the national vaccination campaign against cholera launched by the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health’s by vaccinating people in Arsal, Akkar, Tripoli and Baalbak - Hermel in the north and northeast of Lebanon where most cholera cases are registered in the country.

600,000 cholera vaccine doses received by Lebanon, as first phase procurement, are to be administered in coordination with various international and local actors.

“It’s been five days since we started vaccinating and, so far, we have vaccinated 14,224 people”, says Caline Rehayem, MSF deputy medical coordinator in Lebanon. “Our teams are going from door to door in neighbourhoods, visiting homes, shops, and camps actively seeking out people to get vaccinated and to raise awareness on the importance of vaccination against a highly contagious disease” explained Rehayem. 

Since Lebanon recorded its first cholera case in almost three decades on October 6th, 19 people have died as a result of the disease, with the number of confirmed and suspected rising to 3,671 as of November 16, 2022.

MSF’s vaccination efforts are targeting Lebanese and refugees living in poor and/or overcrowded areas in the country, conditions that put people at heightened risk of contracting infectious diseases. 

“To be able to effectively curb the outbreak, it is crucial to enhance cholera prevention measures, of which vaccination is one of the critical elements”, says Marcelo Fernandez, MSF head of mission in Lebanon. “However, if no meaningful actions are taken to ensure people have proper access to safe drinking water and sanitation services in the country, we can expect cholera and/or other waterborne infectious diseases to resurface regularly in Lebanon” adds Fernandez. 

In addition to administering cholera vaccines, MSF is also providing patient care. In the Bekaa valley (Bar Elias and Arsal) MSF is running two cholera treatment centres with a total capacity of seventy beds. In Tripoli, north of Lebanon, and Arsal, oral rehydration points are being set up for people who do not require hospitalization. 

MSF is also providing technical training to Lebanese health workers on the treatment of cholera patients, mobilised teams to raise awareness about the disease and distributed hygiene kits to help people maintain essential household and personal hygiene in the Bekaa Valley, north, and northeast of Lebanon (Bar Elias, Akkar, Baalbak-Hermel, and Arsal). 
 

About MSF in Lebanon:

MSF is an independent international medical humanitarian organisation providing free healthcare to people in need, without discrimination. MSF first began work in Lebanon in 1976 during the civil war and has been present in the country without interruption since 2008. 

MSF is currently providing free medical care for vulnerable communities throughout Lebanon, whether they are Lebanese, refugees or migrant workers. Our teams are present in different locations across the country including Bekaa Valley, Akkar, and South Beirut. Our services include mental health, sexual and reproductive health, paediatric care, vaccinations and treatment for non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. With over 600 staff, we conduct about 150,000 consultations every year in Lebanon.