By Naser Qadous

Water is a critical yet diminishing resource in the Middle East, and that poses serious challenges for the region’s farming community. I knew that ANERA’s latest project to recycle run-off from Jenin’s wastewater treatment facility would be vital for some 200 farming families in need of better irrigation methods for their land. The wasterwater treatment project will also introduce new, much-needed fodder crops and other produce the farmers currently must import at high costs. This means families can improve crop yield and increase their income.

But, I wondered if the farmers in the program would manage the treated water efficiently and equitably. Could they introduce new crops to the area? Were they motivated to make the necessary changes to their farming methods?

From past experience with knowledge-sharing programs, I was confident the answer would be ‘yes’ to all the questions. In 2013, ANERA organized the first-ever knowledge-sharing program in Palestine that allowed farmers from different parts of the West Bank and Gaza to share their experiences, both positive and negative, through discussions, videos and internet exchanges. I traveled to Morocco for practical experience and I knew that taking Jenin farmers on a similar trip would reap many benefits.

West Bank farmers visit Jordan

West Bank farmers group photo

Palestinian farmers from the West Bank take a break for a group photo during their knowledge-sharing trip.

So, the ANERA team reached out to neighboring Jordan’s Ministry of Agriculture and coordinated a visit with the National Center for Agriculture Research and Extension (NCARE). Once we had the go-ahead, we organized a four-day trip to Jordan for 15 farmers, a municipal official from Jenin, and six engineers from the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture.

First stop was the Jordanian town of Wadi Musa, near Petra, where farmers showed us their cash-crop of alfalfa, which can be harvested 10 to 12 times a year. We realized that this could be a successful venture in Jenin, with a few technical alterations to suit our local climate and soil conditions. I could see and hear excitement percolating in our group as the possibilities for better crop planning took shape.

On the second day, we visited Al –Zarqa , northeast of Amman, to inspect the treated wastewater management system for irrigating fodder crops. There are 27 treatment facilities in Jordan that produce billions of gallons of wastewater a year. The biggest station, located in Zarqa, produces an average of 66 million gallons a day, which irrigates Jordan’s much-needed fodder crops.

A trip to several cooperatives nearby in Al-Mafraq governorate offered more useful information about fodder crops and different irrigation techniques.

West Bank farmers visit alfalfa field Jordan

An alfalfa field near Petra—Palestinian farmers hope to emulate the production of this cash-crop back home in the West Bank.

Innovation & Inspiration in Palestine

We wrapped up the visit with a lecture by two experienced NCARE agronomists who responded knowledgeably and patiently to all our questions—general and technical. The trip reinforced the benefits of sharing knowledge and experience within our own communities and beyond our borders. The information we absorbed will not be forgotten: we were careful to document the entire trip in three videos that will be shared with other West Bank farmers who could not join us in Jordan. And, our new friendships with Jordanian farmers will continue to build and benefit us all.

But, I realized the real benefit of the trip beyond the information-sharing has been the change in the farmers’ attitudes toward experimenting with different crops and irrigation methods. The farmers have returned to Jenin more highly motivated and eager to share their experience.

One of the first steps has been the formation of a new farm cooperative—the first-ever to focus on wastewater irrigation. The 21 founding members have already added 28 farmers to their ranks and expect to reach 200 in the near future.

Agriculture in Palestine is responsible for feeding families, generating jobs and providing income for farmers. When you donate to ANERA, you’re making healthy Palestinian communities possible.

“It was freezing last week,” says 45-year-old Hanaa as she sits in a public school that serves as refugee shelter in the northern Akkar region of Lebanon. It has been Hanaa’s home since she and her family fled the Syrian conflict four years ago. Living conditions are not easy and were worsened when temperatures dropped below zero as a turbulent winter storm struck the Middle East in early January. Five Syrian refugees in Lebanon died in the storm from exposure and illness.

Hanaa was grateful for a package of winter items that ANERA distributed in Berkayel as part of its emergency response during the harsh winter. The packet included much-needed blankets, quilts and rechargeable lanterns.

“These items are life-saving,” Hanaa says. “They will definitely save my two-day-old nephew from freezing to death inside these cold, damp walls.” She says the rechargeable lanterns will also provide steady light for her children to do their homework and stay in school.

Winter distribution reaches 1,000 Syrian refguee families

Winter storms that brought freezing temperatures, heavy winds, snow and rain have added to the hardship for refugees living in camps and makeshift shelters. More than 300,000 Syrian refugees are registered in Akkar and are considered among the most impoverished. “And recently the region’s residents stopped receiving any support and aid,” explains ANERA’s in-kind program manager, Dima Zayat. “We took advantage of a sunny day to make the distribution, which will hopefully ease their suffering and help people not to get sick, especially since this region is expecting another major storm.”

In two days, ANERA was able to distribute 800 blankets, 1,900 quilts and 950 rechargeable lamps to 1,000 refugee families from all over northern Lebanon. The distribution was made possible by  individual donations to ANERA and quilts from Lutheran World Relief.

“The distribution is running smoothly,” says Mohammad Ahmad Abdul Majd, head of the Akkar office of the relief aid organization Dar Al Fatwa, ANERA’s partner for its winterization program. “We use barcodes and a database from UNHCR to reach people via SMS to make sure all families in need will receive the appropriate items.”

ANERA and its partners are continuing to expand efforts to help refugees during the harsh weather. Mohammad adds, “We want to make sure every Syrian refugee is getting a little bit warmer this winter.”

Syrian refugee woman Lebanon
Syrian refugees lebanon little girl lantern
Syrian refugees lebanon man carries blanket
Syrian refugees Lebanon baby Mohammad
Syrian refugees Lebanon family winter kits
Syrian refugees Lebanon girl eats snack

A Syrian refugee woman living in Northern Lebanon carries her winter kit from the ANERA distribution.

A toddler is mesmerized by the emergency lantern her family received.

Carrying new blankets and quilts to his family before the cold weather hits again.

Baby Mohammed, just 2 days old, sleeps soundly after receiving warm blankets.

A family prepares for the cold weather in Northern Lebanon with blankets and quilts.

A young girl snacks on a cookie amid the excitement of the distribution.

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Nestled within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Spafford Children’s Center has served Palestinians in East Jerusalem for over 100 years. The center has experienced many changes throughout the years and managed to withstand political challenges and ongoing turbulence.

The Spafford Children’s Center staff has successfully adapted its services to continue addressing patients’ needs under rapidly changing political circumstances. Once housing a soup kitchen and school for handicrafts and dressmaking, the center is now a hospital focusing on child health—It even has its very own surgical wing. The center provides psychological, social and educational support to children, as well as empowerment programs to mothers and female caretakers.

ANERA partners with the Spafford Center

Through a generous grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, ANERA is helping Spafford’s work to improve the health, education and well-being of vulnerable Palestinian children and women in and around East Jerusalem. The partnership includes programs for 700 children and young people through educational support services and extracurricular activities. It will also treat and vaccinate over 3,000 Palestinian children and provide counseling and parenting training to 400 mothers.

“We had to survive overwhelming challenges and carry on for the sake of the children.”

ANERA’s partnership with the center dates back to 1998 when it provided the center with a $5,000 grant to improve the out-patient clinic. This included new equipment for vaccination and refrigeration, special cabinets, desks and waiting room furniture.

After the construction of the separation wall and imposition of travel restrictions, the medical center extended its operations to Bethany, or Ezarriyeh in Arabic, just behind the wall, in order to continue serving its patients. The clinic today provides free pediatric care, infant welfare monitoring (including screenings for hearing, eyesight and development), in-kind aid and preventative vaccinations.

Spafford traditionally serves children from impoverished families who could not otherwise afford health care in Palestine. Many of the parents dropped out of school and got married at an early age, which often negatively impacts their parental guidance at home.

“Poverty and lack of education, proper schooling and counseling are a combination for a dire future,” says Mazen Dabbagh, ANERA project manager. “Spafford aims to reverse that and offer a more hopeful outcome.”

A Holistic Approach to Child Health and Wellness

Spafford’s holistic approach to early child health and development includes lectures, workshops, counseling, skills, and expressive arts therapy for mothers to help them stimulate their children’s learning abilities. The medical center reaches the families through school visits and word of mouth. The targeted groups are mainly residents of Jerusalem’s Old City and surrounding areas.

Spafford Center child drawing olive trees

A child’s drawing of olive trees – symbolic of the Palestinian connection to the land – hangs in the Spafford Center.

The center’s current director, Dr. Jantien Dajani, has spent over 40 years serving the children of Jerusalem and the West Bank as a pediatrician in Spafford’s out-patient clinic. She smiles when she boasts that she has treated three generations of patients.

“It hasn’t been easy getting to where we are today,” says Dr. Dajani. “We had to survive overwhelming challenges and carry on for the sake of the children.”

Dr. Dajani has been program director since 1992 when she experienced first-hand the violence of Intifada and security crackdowns that traumatized the children growing up during that period. “I have seen with my own eyes the psychological damage in children repeatedly manifesting itself in abdominal pain, bed-wetting, nightmares, speech and learning problems and violent tendencies.” Dr. Dajani says that encouraged her to develop and expand the center’s psychosocial program.

The building, under the ownership of the Spafford family, survived World War I and II, with all the famine and death both wars brought to the city. It also outlived the British Mandate and remained standing during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

The center continues to provide medical, physiological and social aid, as well as arts and play therapy, summer camps and cultural activities to help Palestinian children and their mothers.

“Through this program, ANERA is reaching out its hand to the children and mothers of East Jerusalem and impoverished surrounding areas to relieve their situation and offer them prospects for a more promising future,” concluded Dabbagh.

Spafford Center sign and entrance
Spafford center educational support for child health
Child smiling at Stafford Children's Center
mother and child at Spafford children's center
Spafford Center child health play room
Spafford Center child drawing olive trees
Spafford child health bedroom drawing
Spafford Center ANERA signs contract

Welcome to the Spafford Children's Center, serving Jerusalem's Old City for over 100 years.

The Spafford Center provides educational support services for children. This Palestinian boy gets one-on-one help.

A young boy participates in a craft activity provided by the center. He smiles as he shows off his work!

A mother and her children check-in at the front desk of the Spafford Children's Center.

At the Spafford Center, children partake in stimulating activities as part of psychosocial health. A colorful playroom helps engage young minds.

A child's drawing of olive trees - symbolic of the Palestinian connection to the land - hangs in the Spafford Center.

Also hanging on the wall at the Spafford Center, a child's drawing of a cozy bedroom.

ANERA signs a contract to help the Stafford Children's Center continue providing psychosocial, health, and educational support to children.

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In the small West Bank town of Beit Jala, a new Al Bayyara park breathes life into a community that’s been devastated by conflict and poverty. This community playground is the most recent of three West Bank playgrounds built in 2014 as part of the Al Bayyara project, which has produced nine parks since its inception.

Al Bayyara, meaning “citrus grove” in Arabic, is an initiative ANERA launched in partnership with the Bank of Palestine, local municipalities and individual donors to give children safe, communal places to play.

Odeh Khalilieh, a resident of Beit Jala, donated the land where the newest playground now stands. “Every community needs a breathing area, especially for the children,” says Khalilieh. “There are no public places around this area at all, so this park, I hope, will be the soul of the community.”

As piles of rubble are converted to vibrant “Bayyaras,” Palestinians in the West Bank come together to rejuvenate their neighborhoods. In Beit Jala, Maysoun and Al Bireh, you can see the incredible transformations that have taken place through before and after photographs of the sites.

New West Bank Playgrounds: Before & After

Drag the arrows to reveal the images.






Palestinian children in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon often lack safe spaces to learn and play. When you donate to ANERA, you’re helping us make a difference in thousands of kids’ lives.

Child recieves Clamoxin at Gaza clinic

Gaza Medical Supplies Help Poor Families

January 16th, 2015 by ANERA

When Kifayah Abu-Hasheesh spotted a small red mass on her four-year-old son’s right foot, she took him to Gaza’s Palestine Medical Relief Society (PMRS) Clinic. “I explained to the doctor that he was playing with other kids in the neighborhood and came home, crying in pain. I wasn’t that worried until I noticed the red mass swelling. He didn’t sleep that night because of the pain,” Kifayah added. At the Gaza clinic, she learned that her child had an abscess and needed immediate treatment.

“It was filled with pus and the surrounding tissue was all inflamed,” Kifayah recalled. Any slight touch would trigger agonizing pain. She was upset watching little Ishaak in such misery.

Unfortunately, infections in children are prevalent in Gaza and other poor and conflict-ridden communities.

When it rains, as it often does during winter, the village streets are awash in filthy sewage-filled water.

“It’s not uncommon to see such cases among villagers,” reported Dr. Mohammad Shihata. “We receive cases with the same type of infection in adults and children alike.”

As part of the treatment, the doctor opened and drained the abscess, applied an antiseptic solution and wrapped it with a sterile bandage. Throughout the period of healing, the doctor will continue to clean the area of infection and change the bandage. Ishaak was prescribed Clamoxin to avoid further inflammation or contamination of infection. ANERA purchased the expensive antibiotic, thanks to funding from International Health Partners (IHP), and distributed the medicine to three major clinics and hospitals in Gaza to provide treatment for patients who cannot otherwise afford it.

Gaza in-kind medical supplies treat infections

Kifayah is grateful that she was able to get Ishaak’s medicine for free at the clinic.

Unhealthy living conditions are threat to health

Dr. Shihata explains that abscesses are commonly caused by germs and bacteria entering the body through minor skin breaks or punctures. They often cause inflammation. In Gaza’s rural community, he says, inadequate or no footwear, the absence of proper sanitation and poor personal and household hygiene are major health concerns, which increase the potential for infections. Children often play outside barefoot or in open sandals.

Even before the war broke out in Gaza this past summer, Kifayah’s village lacked clean water. When it rains, as it often does during winter, the village streets are awash in filthy sewage-filled water. Villagers are susceptible to infections and water-borne disease.

Donated Gaza medical supplies from international organizations are essential to the well-being of Palestinians living in poverty. Kifayah has always relied on the PRMS clinic for free or low-cost medical care. It is the closest health facility to her Bedouin village in northern Gaza. The clinic also offers awareness sessions for parents about best health practices to reduce the potential for illness or infection.

Kifayah welcomes the free help. Her husband earns very little farming a rented piece of land. “Our economic situation is dim. My husband barely makes a living,” said the mother of five. “When I came to the clinic and heard that the medicine we needed for Ishaak would be free, it meant the world to me. I don’t know how I would have been able to afford it otherwise.”