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CNEWA trustees meet Lebanese, refugees who benefit from their projects

16 Apr 2018 – By Kenneth R. Rosen Catholic News Service

BEIRUT (CNS) — A North American delegation negotiated the steep incline to a clinic draped over the roadway, like an olive tree from a limestone bluff.

“Yesterday we prayed,” said New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who the day before attended a Mass with refugees. “Now we work.”

Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the board of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, led a delegation from CNEWA, including Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver, British Columbia, and retired Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York. The group who visited health care facilities across the Lebanese capital 16 April.

Arriving by bus and after a brief climb, the prelates reached St. Anthony Dispensary, north of Beirut. The clinic offers medical services to locals and refugees in the Lebanese capital.

Speaking with Lebanese Christians and displaced Syrian and Iraqi refugees at the dispensary, Cardinal Dolan held several children aloft as the delegation traversed a tight corridor, lined with white plastic chairs in which sat dozens of patients.

The clinic, which is open less than four hours each morning, treats 80 people each day.

Sevan Aziz, originally from Baghdad, visits the clinic regularly for her 82-year-old mother, who has high blood pressure.

“Here it’s better [than other regional clinics] because I know everyone,” Aziz said. “It’s far from home, but my mothers needs someone who understands our needs, and I get that here.”

The dispensary, now in Beirut’s Roueisset neighborhood, was initially founded in 1987 in the Jdeideh el Metn municipality to serve Lebanese Christians and Shiite Muslims who lived in the area but could not afford medical consultations or the cost of recurring prescriptions. In 2003, more than 400 Iraqi families settled in nearby Roueisset, overwhelming the dispensary with the community’s growing needs. The dispensary received additional support from the Good Shepherd Sisters, who had been working with area children since 1998.

Today the 35 doctors employed by the dispensary work annually with more than 20,000 refugees, many of whom have fled the seven-year civil war in Syria and the recent occupation of the Islamic State in Iraq.

“It’s a very poor community,” said Rita Bishara, program director. “It’s their only hope for primary health support.”

CNEWA funds clinic projects, including the disbursement of chronic medications to more than 600 individuals who require prescriptions that treat Alzheimer’s, asthma, diabetes, hepatitis, epilepsy, osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease. Clinic officials say without CNEWA support, many patients needing medical services could not otherwise afford the $12 co-pay set by the Ministry of Health.

The dispensary and its tertiary programs take a holistic, human approach to health care, said Sister Antoinette Assad, director of Good Shepherd Sisters.

“Our motto is that religion is for God, the dispensary is for all,” she said.

Sarouat Mourtada of Baalbek, Lebanon, sat in a chair cradling her 15-month-old daughter, who was there for a routine medical exam.





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