Training volunteer healthcare workers in Ain al-Hilweh

Training volunteer healthcare workers in Ain al-Hilweh
5 min read
Soaring temperatures and electricity cuts in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in south Lebanon have not stopped nurses from organising a free training programme for young camp residents to plug the gap in elderly care provision in the camp.

In spite of the soaring temperatures and electricity cuts in the Ain al-Hilweh camp for Palestinian refugees in south Lebanon, the Humanitarian Emergency Organisation is running a voluntary training course for healthcare assistants who will specialise in elderly care.

The training takes several months and organisers hope that it will contribute to providing a specialist nurse for assisting the elderly in each part of the camp, who will also be able to carry out rapid health intervention in emergencies.

Healthcare workers needed to save lives

The director of the organisation, Musa Musa, from the al-Nahr village in Akka district in Palestine, who is a resident of the camp, says to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister publication: “We have set up this important training course during very difficult and harsh circumstances: there is only one hour of electricity per day, and our use of electricity generators is extremely restricted due to dwindling fuel supplies in Lebanon.

"The training takes several months and organisers hope that it will contribute to providing a specialist nurse for assisting the elderly in each part of the camp, who will also be able to carry out rapid health intervention in emergencies"

"However, we are determined that these urgent first aid courses go ahead because there are not enough paramedics in the camp to administer to people’s needs when many suffer from poor health. We have also seen instances where people have made mistakes when treating the sick and injured. This is why we are committed to these courses despite the circumstances – raising the competence of healthcare workers in the camp is needed to save lives,” he adds.

"The current course focusses on care for the elderly because there is approximately one elderly person in every house and a lack of knowledge of how to care for them. Therefore we decided to integrate the first-aid course with specialist courses in care for the elderly”.

He adds that young people have volunteered from every neighbourhood in the camp "so that the course achieves the goal of providing a volunteer to carry out the tasks of the paramedic at any time and place, and learn how to treat the bedsores which the elderly suffer from as well as other afflictions.”

Care for the elderly training course in Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon
The voluntary healthcare assistant course in Ain al-Hilweh aims to equip young people in the camp with the skills to care for the elderly and respond to emergencies [Al-Araby Al-Jadeed]

Musa emphasises his resolve to continue the training programme whatever happens.

“We don’t receive any funding for this work but people trust us. The teacher is a volunteer and does not receive any payment – this is about community health and service to the community, in terms of the health of the community, because it is necessary in light of the horrendous circumstances we are living through.”

A humanitarian service for those in need

Nora Hassan Ibrahim is one of those taking part in the course. Originally from Ghuwayr Abu Shusha in historic Palestine, she is a resident of Ain al-Hilweh where she lives with her children.

“I didn’t finish secondary school and trained as a beautician, which I still work as. But when I learned about the healthcare course, I decided to join it because I want to offer humanitarian service to my people who are in need, especially the elderly in the camp, as there are many of them and not enough healthcare assistants.”

She adds: “It is true that today we are living in difficult circumstances which mean that sometimes we have to train in the dark. I know the psychological pressures we are under are extreme, but this course gives me an aim to work towards which I am determined to do, even in these conditions.”

"One of my students is now able to take care of all the daily needs of her elderly neighbour whilst another can take the blood pressure of her neighbour and supervise her while she takes her medicines. Some of my students are now working with elderly people outside the camp, for a wage"

Run by volunteers

Volunteer trainer Akram Al-Siyah, from Al-Sumayriyya who lives in Ain al-Hilweh explains: “I work in Dar as-Salaam for the elderly (a specialist hospital) in Sharhabil in east Sidon. For nearly two years I have also trained nurses specialising in elderly care in several centres.

"Right now I am also teaching the course in Ain al-Hilweh for the first time because young people need to learn how to care for the elderly: they make up 20 percent of the population in the Palestinian refugee camps. They will then be able to provide treatment and care for them which is needed in the camps, which are considered an unfit and unsafe environment for the elderly in particular.”

He adds: “We teach students to deal with those who have certain conditions, bearing in mind that ambulance services to Ain al-Hilweh are not reliable. I am also working on a coursebook for trainees on how to deal with the elderly. One of my students is now able to take care of all the daily needs of her elderly neighbour whilst another can take the blood pressure of her neighbour and supervise her while she takes her medicines. Some of my students are now working with elderly people outside the camp, for a wage.”

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He explains that the course is three months long and that the training sessions last two hours each and take place twice a week.

“At the moment we have no electricity or ventilation, but we put up with these conditions in order to teach the youth these skills.”

This is a translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.