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Global inequalities in health have long been associated with disparities between rich and poor nations. The middle-income countries of the Levant (Lebanon, Syria and Jordan) have developed models of health care delivery that mirror the often complex make-up of their states. In Lebanon, which is characterized by political clientelism and sectarian structures, access to health care is more contingent on ethnicity and religious affiliation than on poverty. This case study of the Bedouin of the Middle Bekaa Valley of Lebanon is based on interviews with policymakers, health care providers and the Bedouin as part of a study funded by the European Commission between 2006 and 2010. The study explores the importance of considering social discrimination and political exclusion in understanding compromised health care. Three decades after the Declaration of Alma Ata (1978), which declared that an acceptable level of health care for all should be attained by the year 2000, the Bedouin community of Lebanon remains largely invisible to the government and, thus, invisible to national health care policy and practice. They experience significant social discrimination from health practitioners and policymakers alike. Their unfair treatment under the health system is generally disassociated from issues of wealth or poverty; it is manifested in issues of access and use, discrimination, and resistance and agency. Overcoming their political exclusion and recognizing the social discrimination they face are steps that can be taken to protect and promote equal access to basic reproductive and child health care. This case study of the Bedouin in Lebanon is also relevant to the health needs of other marginalized populations in remote and rural areas.

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