GENEVA - Doctors at Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan are having to decide between treating acute cancer patients and helping deliver babies due to severe shortages of cash, the United Nations said on Friday.
More than 1.4 million Syrian refugees have now fled their shattered homeland for neighboring countries whose health care systems are straining to meet the needs of their populations, in some cases suddenly swollen by 20 percent, it said.
But an appeal by UN High Commissioner for Refugees for $1 billion through mid-year is only 55 percent covered. This has meant that some of the costly medical care for chronic diseases is being denied, although emergency cases are treated, it said.
"We will prioritize paying for a woman's delivery instead of paying for treatment of a cancer patient with a poor prognosis. That is bad, but we have to do it. These are hard decisions," Dr. Paul Spiegel, UNHCR's chief medical expert, told Reuters.
Acute respiratory infections and diarrhea are the most common ailments among Syrian refugees, three-quarters of whom are women and children, the UNHCR said in its first report based on medical consultations in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. No data was available from Turkey, it said.