In satellite images, the Middle East can look serene—fertile green vegetation along the coastlines; white, snow-capped peaks in the mountains; orange desert sand; the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. But natural beauty cannot hide the humanitarian crisis that besets this region.
Since 2011, images taken on the ground in Syria have been tragic—bombs exploding, smoke billowing, and the wrenching and all-too-familiar photographs of children suffering the consequences of those atrocities.
Millions of Syrians have fled their embattled homeland.
Soon after the war began, refugees started pouring across the border into Lebanon. Today, Lebanon has, per capita, more refugees than any other country in the world. With the war entering its eighth year, this migration continues to tax Lebanon’s strained resources.
“The number of refugees in Lebanon rapidly grew from 300,000 to over 1.5 million,” says Sima Jeha, MD, of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “That’s one-third of the population in Lebanon. “It would be like 100 million refugees coming to the U.S. over two years,” Jeha continues. “You can imagine how straining that would be to our infrastructure.”
Jeha, a leukemia expert who earned her medical degree at the American University of Beirut, works in the Oncology and Global Pediatric Medicine departments at St. Jude and directs St. Jude Global efforts in the region.