Refugee Funding Gets a Boost from an Unexpected Source

The Middle East's refugee crisis remains as serious as ever. The current number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon alone—a country with a population of just under 4.5 million—stands at just over 1 million. And Jordan, which has reportedly reached its “saturation point” regarding its ability to provide ongoing support to its ever-growing refugee population, is currently hosting 1.3 million Syrians. Overall, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region hosts just under 5 million Syrian refugees alone.

Clearly, the Middle East needs help from anyone willing to pitch in. And some surprising funders are answering that call, like Gilead Sciences.

Gilead isn’t a big humanitarian aid donor and refugees are not necessarily on its target list of beneficiary populations for its grantmaking. Rather, this is a funder that pays a lot of attention to diseases like HIV/AIDS, cancer, inflammatory diseases, and viral hepatitis. Overall access to healthcare is also a big deal for Gilead and one of the centerpieces of its grantmaking.

Refugees are among the most vulnerable populations around the world and face incredibly severe impediments when it comes to getting the healthcare they need. And I’m not just talking about emergency medical care for injuries caused by the war, I’m talking about treatment for chronic diseases as well.

Recognizing that “political, social, and geographical barriers prevent patients around the world from accessing,” healthcare, Gilead partners up with organizations that are able makes some serious headway toward removing those barriers. Its latest partner is a powerhouse in the global humanitarian landscape.

Last month, Gilead Sciences awarded International Medical Corps a $500,000 grant in support of its ongoing programs providing critical health services to displaced Syrians across the Middle East. The grant allows International Medical Corps to expand its work which includes providing healthcare, training frontline workers and community health workers, delivering medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, and operating health education programs in refugee communities.

Related: Will a World Summit Strike that Match that Lights the Humanitarian Funding Fire?

Over the past three decades, International Medical Corps has been responding to major global crises around the world. This quick-acting organization focuses its energies on efforts such as emergency response and preparedness, food security, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and access to healthcare. But, this group is also dialed in to the mental healthcare and psychosocial support—an often overlooked matter in the global refugee crisis. International Medical Corps mental health and psychosocial adviser, Dr. Inka Weissbecker, says “From a public health perspective, it’s one of these invisible crises, since people are not measuring it or looking at it.”  

According to International Medical Corps, “during emergencies the percentage of those suffering common mental disorders can double from 10 to 20 percent,” and those who already suffer from severe mental illness lack access to healthcare. To close the gap, the corps has launched mental health and psychosocial programs in nearly 20 countries across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The $500,000 grant from Gilead will go to support these programs in addition to the work mention previously.

The global humanitarian community has been crying out for help from governments, NGOs, and the private sector for years. Unfortunately, not much has changed as far as funding is concerned. Of the estimated requirement of $7.7 billion, around $3.7 billion has been received, leaving a shortfall of over $3.9 billion. So private funders are essential.