Lifesaving cholera response in Lebanon

Cholera vaccination in North Lebanon. Photo: UNHCR

Lebanon | 2023 | CERF

Lebanon, Tripoli. A cholera outbreak was declared in Lebanon in October 2022. Ali, a Syrian refugee, and father of two-year-old Ahmad, explained how frightened he was when his son started getting sick. “Ahmad was severely dehydrated and suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting. He was hospitalized in Tripoli for about a week.”

UNHCR supported the national cholera response plan, led by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and working closely with the Government, UN agencies, and NGOs, UNHCR helped implement the Nationwide National Oral Cholera Vaccination campaign. By February 2023, over one million single doses of the oral cholera vaccine had been administered. More than 60% of the beneficiaries were Lebanese, and the rest were Syrian.

“This is about saving lives. With the support of our partners, we were able to deliver vaccinations to the most vulnerable, which helped contain the cholera outbreak and safeguard entire communities in the most difficult-to-reach places,” says Dr. Zinia Sultana, UNHCR Senior Public Health Officer.

The “Dr. Abdullah El Rassi” Governmental Hospital was the first to receive Cholera patients and UNHCR supported the initial hospital emergency response as well as the conversion of COVID-19 facilities into a Cholera Treatment Center.

“When families and individuals began being admitted to the hospital, UNHCR started planning and coordination efforts with us to convert the facilities into a cholera treatment center. Their support was crucial at such a critical and incredibly challenging time,” says Dr. Atik.

The response was even broader: 250 vaccination teams were mobilized for door-to-door vaccine provision and community engagement. Over 500 UNHCR Outreach Volunteers were trained in awareness raising, information sharing, and surveillance in high-risk locations. 

Twenty nurses were deployed nationwide in humanitarian partner Rapid Response Teams; while 200 cholera beds were procured so that hospitals had the capacity to admit severe cases. UNHCR also covered 100% of hospital costs for all suspected and confirmed cases among refugee patients.

Ahmad’s father Ali says, “I truly believe the treatment he received was lifesaving because it was administered in a hospital with a specific Cholera Treatment Center,” referencing the Tripoli Government Hospital. Ahmad has fully recovered, and Ali is thankful he vaccinated his son: “The vaccine will ensure this illness never threatens my son’s life again.”

The generous contribution of the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), and other donors, to the cholera response in Lebanon enabled UNHCR to carry out these lifesaving interventions. CERF, ‘a fund for all, by all’, ensured that urgently needed humanitarian assistance reached the most vulnerable people in their time of need.

Adapted from the original story: CERF, “a fund by all, for all,” a lifesaving cholera response in Lebanon – UNHCR Lebanon

More information on the CERF allocation in Lebanon (2022). Find real-time contribution and allocation data on the POOLED FUNDS DATA HUB.