In Lebanon, every year, 70,000 babies are born of which 12% are premature (approx. 9,000 ) . Adding the Syrian premature babies born in the country as well lifts the total up to 18,000 premature babies/year. The cost of treating a premature baby is between $20,000 and $30,000 in a Private Hospital. Unfortunately, Beirut has only 3 public hospitals that lack the numbers of specialized medical equipment needed to treat such cases.
After returning to Lebanon to settle, Professor Robert Sacy saw the challenges and the hardships that the health sector is facing when it comes to baby care and decided to establish Birth & Beyond, the NGO dedicated to the well being of children and premature babies. Their mission was to refurbish a governmental hospital that provides first class medical services at a reasonable cost to all those who can’t afford the price of such treatments.
“We immediately started renovating as soon as we received the license in 2014 to take over and run the Governmental Hospital in Karantina” – said Pr Robert Sacy, the founder of Birth & Beyond accompanied by our lovely tour guides for the visit at the Hospital Mr. Abboud Shami, Mrs Alia Chaaraoui Bekhazi & Mrs Youmna Zeidan.
The “Before and After” comparison is as astonishing as the hard work this small NGO achieved. Within just 15 days, they were able to renovate one entire floor that is now a hostel for French nurses that came to Lebanon to learn Paediatrics. It also features a Large fully-equipped Conference Room with a separate entry to its kitchen & catering service. This room is also available for rent for Private Seminars & Workshops which acts as a source of revenue for the NGO.
Initially, the Karantina Governmental Hospital didn’t have any Paediatric beds for the premature babies and not even any of the required equipment. After Birth & Beyond’s intervention, Karantina Hospital became one of the top hospitals for Paediatric care. Owning as much as 4 Paediatric care beds, when only 20 of them are available all over Lebanon. Today the Hospital owns unique machines that are only available at the American University Hospital (AUH).
When asked about the challenges they face Mr. Shami answered: “People always have this unreasonable fear when it comes to mentioning Karantina Hospital. What they don’t know is that it has one of the top equipment for paediatric care. We get a lot of cases from Tyr, Akkar, Tripoli and other cities in Lebanon, we don’t have a lot of public hospitals around Lebanon and people can’t afford to spend 20,000 usd. We believe this hospital has a lot of potential, and it can really compete with the top private hospitals in Lebanon when it comes to paediatric care”
In September, Birth & Beyond launched their magical gourmet street food event in the backyard of the hospital to raise money. The impressive transformation was made possible thanks to the valuable help of the Notre-Dame de Jamhour Scouts. They removed all the garbage that filled the place, planted the ground with fruit trees, painted the walls and got rid of all the ruins that were left there ever since the 70s. The Event was successful thanks to the essential contribution of prestigious sponsors as well as supporters who attended the gathering : Bi Bayti, La Piara,Colonel Beer, Moussallem Group, Aziz & Walid Mouzannar,La Libanaise des Jeux, Noura,Christian Bonja, Cortina,Buttlers’ Bottle & La Ferme St-Jacques.
When Kamsyn sat with Professor Sacy to ask him about the funding, he made sure to speak from his big heart as he always does:
“We believe that no child should be denied the medical service they deserve, at this point we don’t have any funds, we pay for all of this from our own money, because children should not be the victim of corruption and as long as there are good people around, good things are achieved and a better life for the children is provided. We are always in need of donations and sponsors are more than welcome”
B&B needed first and foremost to partner with an existing government hospital. B&B negotiated to take over the old ward of the Quarantina Hospital, which is servicing more than 500,000 people living in its seven neighbourhoods, of which 30% are children. While renovating the ward with the latest equipment and pre-natal service facilities through the “Carlos Slim Foundation” and the “Give a child a toy association”, B&B have signed strategic alliances with the St. Georges Orthodox Hospital and Balamand University, to help transform the Quarantina Ward into the first ever Government University Hospital in Lebanon: “The Carlos Slim Center for children” and the largest of it’s kind.
Tough challenges ahead – The key challenge to ensure current and future Lebanese premature babies receive the right level of specialized care is the financial sustainability of the project. It is important for the “Carlos Slim Center for Children” not to rely solely on the very limited financial resources of the government, otherwise the level of care will dwindle, a catastrophic scenario, given that those babies are placed in Premature Intensive Care treatment. Hence “Contributions from the private sector and individual citizens become a necessity”.
With all the hardships the NGO face, they never gave up and they keep trying their best to provide underprivileged children with the best healthcare they can. For your support and donations:
Kamsyn, October 2016