Delivering Health Care Where It Is Needed Most: Rafik Hariri University Hospital Project

An innovative collaboration by AVINA STIFTUNG and the ICRC with the Rafik Hariri University Hospital (RHUH) to improve health care to patients of all nationalities…

A patient at the ICRC’s ward in the RHUH. Photo: ICRC/S. Kelly.

The Middle East has been hit hard by conflict in recent years, bringing about a complex socio-political and health-care crisis. A conventional emergency humanitarian response is no longer enough. As the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, Yemen and Iraq unfolds, another one is developing in Lebanon. The country is struggling to cope with the arrival of millions of refugees, on top of the social and political problems caused by its own recent history.

Over the past six years, the crisis in Syria has really taken its toll on Lebanon. The Lebanese people, Syrian refugees and migrant workers have been forced to adopt ever more negative coping mechanisms as the crisis continues. The public health system can no longer cope with the growing pressure, leading to hostility and tensions within communities and creating a vicious circle of violence and overall societal loss.

The response to the crisis has been incremental, providing communities with first aid and mental health and psychosocial support, and then offering primary health-care services, hospital support and physical rehabilitation.

In 2016, and in partnership with AVINA STIFTUNG and the RHUH, the ICRC launched a project that aims to:

  • Respond to the growing need for emergency medical care
  • Develop a long-term project with a regional training component
  • Develop a regional health-care model for war trauma and emergency medicine through operational research
An ICRC nurse with the daughter of one of the patients at the RHUH. Photo: ICRC/S. Kelly

In 2016, the ICRC signed a memorandum of understanding with the RHUH and the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health to set up a new hospital ward for reconstructive surgery for people with weapon wounds. The agreement also included improving and expanding RHUH’s services, allowing people to get emergency care more easily.

Soon after the agreement, we began making monthly deliveries of medicines and consumables for the hospital’s operating theatres and emergency department. We not only provide medical supplies and equipment, but also support running costs, such as furnishing and structural renovation.

Our doctors and nurses, national and international staff, work alongside the RHUH’s medical personnel to share their expertise and help improve their capacity and skills.

This is story of one of our patient’s experience at the RHUH with our staff:

Communications Department — ICRC Lebanon

Why the RHUH?

The Rafik Hariri University Hospital (RHUH) was chosen because:

  • It is the key public university hospital in Lebanon.
  • It is the referral hospital for the most vulnerable people living in Beirut and Mount Lebanon.
  • It is the referral hospital for south Lebanon in the event of hostilities with Israel.
  • It is the referral hospital for three Palestinian camps near Beirut.
  • It is the third-largest referral hospital for UNHCR, with an average of 400 cases/month.
  • The hospital admits those wounded by weapons
  • Demand for health care is increasing
  • The hospital’s management team has showed real willingness in developing the hospital’s capacities.
Photo: ICRC/S. Kelly


Photo: ICRC/H. Shaaban

More than a hospital ward…

Our ward not only provides emergency and reconstructive surgery to people of all nationalities, it also serves as a training centre, giving hands-on experience to surgeons taking part in a course on clinical management of weapon wounds. The course was created in 2015 and is offered by the ICRC and the Lebanese University.

“Lebanon’s health-care system needs to be stronger to cope with this crisis,” said Fabrizio Carboni, head of the ICRC in Lebanon. “If we work together and put people’s health-care needs above all else, we can care for everyone, and even make Lebanon a hub for training medical professionals in the region.”

Photo: ICRC/M. Jaafar

“This partnership with AVINA STIFTUNG and the ICRC is invaluable for the hospital,” said Dr Firas Al Abyad, chairman of the RHUH. “It will serve the hospital’s mission of providing effective and high-quality care to patients of all nationalities and tending to the country’s growing needs and the challenges it faces.”

“Since the crisis began, Lebanon’s population has grown by 30%. There is no solution in sight and aid to Lebanon is being cut,” a representative of the Ministry of Health said, adding: “It is partnerships like these that will help Lebanon and those affected by the crisis make it through the hard times.”

Photo: ICRC/S. Kelly
Photo: ICRC/M. Jaafar


Rafik Hariri University Hospital is a public independent establishment that offers medical services to Lebanese citizens in Beirut and all other regions, by ensuring care and hospitalization services in an academic frame, and by offering an excellent quality of treatment and health follow-up.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been present in Lebanon since 1967 and has carried out its humanitarian work through different periods of conflict, including Lebanon’s 15-year-long civil war from 1975–1990.

For more information on our activities in Lebanon, please click here.

For more information on the ICRC’s health-related activities, please click here.


Patricia Rey, Communications coordinator , T. +961 71 802 876 , Twitter @PReyCICR

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