Pandemic Response Blog

The Legacy of Beirut’s Mobile Health Clinic

Selected as one of the inaugural grantees of the Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees: Inclusive Pandemic Response (GCF) in 2021, the Municipality of Beirut has built a strong case for directly funding city governments worldwide.

City governments are often disregarded by international donors, but the success of Beirut’s Municipal Mobile Health Clinic shows that city-led programs which benefit migrants and refugees aren’t just possible and worthy of investment, but extremely inclusive and effective.

Despite deteriorating local conditions and repetitive lockdowns during the initial months of the pandemic, the Municipality of Beirut—with the support of UN-Habitat Lebanon— procured and outfitted the clinic and hired essential staff, including a full-time project coordinator. 

These efforts enabled the city to conduct surveys and focus groups in selected neighborhoods to identify the services most needed by migrants, refugees, and marginalized Lebanese communities and determine the best locations to deploy the clinic’s resources and services. The clinic has since visited most of Beirut’s neighborhoods and has become a fixture in those most marginalized, such as Tariq el Jdideh.

“With the support of the Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees, our Mobile Health Clinic has helped our city reach migrant and refugee residents in the neighborhoods they live in,” said Mayor Jamal Itani. “We’ve been able to provide critical healthcare services—regardless of ability to pay or migration status—to those who would otherwise be left behind.”

In the year since the clinic was inaugurated with support from the GCF, it has strengthened existing collaboration between the Municipality of Beirut and UN-Habitat Lebanon, Red Cross Lebanon, Doctors without Borders, and the Ministry of Public Health, among other partners, to build greater capacity to address future public health crises in the city. 

So far, the clinic has provided more than 2,000 Beirutis—more than half of them foreign-born—with free, safe access to Covid-19 and other viral testing and vaccines. The clinic has also expanded its original service offering to include blood drives for children, breast cancer awareness events, and primary health care screenings. While in Beirut recently, I personally attended a recent blood drive which saw Iraqi, Syrian, Palestinian, and Lebanese community members help save the lives of over 50 children.

With the GCF’s support ending this month, the Municipality of Beirut is currently seeking local partners to work with them to keep the clinic on Beirut’s streets while looking for international support for the creation of new, permanent clinics in Beirut’s underserved neighborhoods. As Mayor Itani told me recently, “Beirut is open for partnerships.” 

Learn more about Beirut’s GCF project here.


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