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I arrived in Beirut, Lebanon, three months ago. Not quite sure what to expect, all I knew was that I was coming to work in a hospital called Rafik Hariri as an emergency nurse. As it turns out, the project I currently find myself a part of is much bigger than I had imagined.
I am a small cog in the wheel of a very large and ongoing project with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The project works in collaboration with a government hospital to provide services to vulnerable people, in particular Syrian refugees. I am part of a 10-person ICRC team, and together with the Rafik Hariri staff we oversee a small ward of 16 beds.
With a total population of 4.5 million people, Lebanon hosts the highest concentration of refugees per person in the world. According to The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as of 30 June 2016, there are more than one million registered Syrian refugees in the country. However, multiple surveys have shown that as many as 300,000-500,000 more are unregistered.
One of the resident staff nurses, Mohammed, has been enormously helpful and kind during my time in Beirut. We work together in the emergency department, picking up patients that are most vulnerable and assisting the other resident nurses with daily tasks.
With my very limited knowledge of Arabic, the language barrier between myself and the patients can be difficult to manage at times, but Mohammed and the local staff frequently help me with translations. I consider myself very lucky to be surrounded by such helpful friends here at Rafik Hariri.
Outside of the hospital, one of the nicest things about Beirut is that the city is a fairly safe place. My colleagues and I can go out to restaurants, meet with friends, go shopping, see a movie - in many ways, we are completely spoiled.
Working with the ICRC here at Rafik Hariri Hospital can be challenging at times, but the work we are doing is hugely rewarding. Taking a step backward and seeing how more and more people in Beirut are gaining access to health services through our work makes all the tough days worth it.