First came “Nancy,” then “Zina,” followed by “Yohan” and “Windy.” Four storms hit Lebanon in less than four months, each storm bringing freezing temperatures, high winds, heavy rains and snow across all of Lebanon but especially in the Akkar region, where Syrian refugees have sought shelter. The refugees in Lebanon and communities hosting them can barely cope.

“I watched my baby Jana shivering from cold,” sighs the 40-year-old Hanadi. “I don’t know if we have enough heat or electricity to survive the freezing temperature. Our situation is almost unbearable,” she says, her eyes filled with tears.

Along with thousands of other refugee families, Hanadi and her six children have been living in Wadi Khaled, in Akkar region, since they fled the Syrian crisis four years ago. Her husband was stopped at the border so she is alone with her children. Amid her misery, Hanadi says the donation of winter quilts and blankets is a joyous gift. “The quilts are very colorful, and the blankets are soft and fluffy,” she smiles.

Hanadi’s daughter, eight-year-old Chahed exclaims, “I love them!” Then she adds with a child’s knowing smile, “They will keep us all warm this winter.”

refugees in lebanon scrambled to get relief items

Refugees living in dire conditions scrambled to get in line for ANERA’s winter distribution.

ANERA delivers 1,195 winter relief kits in Wadi Khaled, Akkar

Thanks to the generous donation from United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR), ANERA  delivered 4,547 blankets and 1,195 emergency light units. ANERA was also able to deliver 11,250 quilts made by Lutheran World Relief. Families received flyers providing helpful tips on preventing and managing winter illnesses.

ANERA has partnered with Relief Aid Organization of Dar Al Fatwa to distribute the supplies to more than 1,000 families of Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities in Wadi Khaled, Akkar, in northern Lebanon.

“The kit is very useful and has good quality items,” declares Sarah, a 24-year-old Lebanese mother in Wadi Khaled. “Since electricity is scarce here, the emergency light unit is very practical. I’ll be more comfortable while breastfeeding my child.She adds, “My nephew won’t have to study by candle light anymore either.”

Mother and son, refugees in Lebanon, get emergency light

Sarah is thankful for the emergency light since electricity is scarce in Wadi Khaled.

The kits were distributed in the villages of Machta Hasan and Machta Hammoud in Wadi Khaled. Dima Zayat, ANERA’s health and in-kind program manager explains, “The region has not been receiving any humanitarian aid because of its location along the Syrian border.” She says the economy of the region depends mainly on agriculture and trade with neighboring Syrian villages. “The Syrian conflict has impacted, the socio-economic situation since so many refugees fled Talkalakh in Syria and moved to Wadi Khaled, putting more strains on the local economy.

Mohammad Ahmad Abdul Majd, who heads the Akkar office of Dar Al Fatwa, could not contain his gratitude for ANERA’s winterization program, which he says is bringing much-needed relief to thousands. “We are careful to avoid any duplication during the distribution so everyone benefits equally from the donation,” he says. “We are doing our best to to make sure that no Lebanese or Syrian family who needs our help is left out.”

I am Majida Ghaleb Kourayem, from Nahr El Bared Camp in Lebanon. My husband and I have four children—two girls and two boys. I ran a shop in the camp. Life was good until the war of 2007 when we had to flee and seek refuge in Beddawi camp [near Tripoli].

But when Nahr El Bared started to rebuild, we came back. My husband saw a shop for rent and suggested we open a children’s clothing store. He didn’t have work and we needed to do something so we opened the shop, where I spent my days working. At that time, I would just go home to prepare lunch for the family and then go back to the shop until dinner. My boutique is well known for having the best clothes because I choose everything very carefully. But the economic situation has been terrible, and sales have dropped to almost nothing.

It was then that I heard about vocational training classes for cooking, but I wasn’t so interested at first because the teacher was a male chef. It didn’t sound right to me.

However, then I heard about a second training session with a lot of women in that class. I heard that the one of the graduates was producing amazing food and selling it. And then my neighbor told me to join. I have to laugh because I asked my husband if I should take the course and he said, “You’re already a good cook so why take a course?”

But I insisted, and when they offered another training class, I enrolled. I loved every minute of the class and, though I have experience cooking, I learned so many new things.

Vocational cooking classes lead to a new career

At first, I cooked for my family and then our guests tasted my food and liked it so much that they asked me to make some and they’d pay for it. I am used to working even when no other women were working in the camp. Now I feel even more empowered. My family counts on me and I carry a lot of responsibilities.

“Women must realize nothing is beyond their reach.”

To be honest, I wanted to take the course to change careers. My clothing shop wasn’t doing all that well and I needed to do something different. I figured people still need to eat. With everyone telling me they liked my food, I thought I could convert my shop into a food store and sell cooked food to the workers nearby. For practice I worked on orders for schools and special occasions and got really good feedback.

Refugee woman Majida at home in kitchen

“Vocational training has changed my life. I am earning more income for my family doing something I really love.”

Now pastry-making is my business and my husband runs the clothing shop.

Vocational training has changed my life. I am earning more income for my family doing something I really love. My dream is to open a pastry shop of my own.

I will admit, though, that as much as I love making pastry, making croissants is very hard. It needs a lot of practice and perseverance.

Sometimes people ask why do I work so hard, since I’m a housewife. It is true I am a housewife but that doesn’t stop me from learning and seeking knowledge. I love to try everything. Women must realize nothing is beyond their reach.

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. And, when I talk with Palestinian women I tell them, “Don’t say ‘I can’t do this task.’ Don’t say it’s too hard. Sometimes conditions surrounding you can prevent you from taking a certain path in your life, but with determination you can overcome those challenges.”

View slideshow:

Majida walks home Nahr El Bared
Nahr El Bared Majida baking close up
Majida makes pastries Nahr El Bared
refugee woman majida finishes making pastries
Majida cleans up kitchen Nahr El Bared
Refugee woman, Majida's sons test pastries
Majida and two sons do homework

Majida walks home from the store with ingredients for her pastries.

In the beginning stages of pastry prep, Majida adds butter to the flour in a mixing bowl.

When the dough is ready, Majida adds filling and shapes the pastries with her hands.

Majida puts the finishing touches on some of her pastries.

As the pastries bake, Maria washes the dishes.

Majida lets her sons taste her freshly baked pastries while they finish homework.

When she's done working, Majida helps her sons with their homework.

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Want to learn more? Meet Manale, another woman from Nahr El Bared who used ANERA’s vocational training classes to change her life and inspire others.

1995-present: Supporting Sustainable Projects

Irrigating Jericho during the Second Intifada

Water scarcity remains one of the greatest challenges to Palestinian agricultural development. With an increasing population, harsh climate change, urbanization and little to no control over their own water resources, Palestinian farmers are forced to either adapt their farming techniques to water scarcity or abandon farming altogether.

Nearly 13 years ago, ANERA took on a tremendous challenge to install a state-of-the-art irrigation system in Jericho, which is located in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley that endures the area’s driest climate.

The Ein Al-Sultan spring supplies 900 families in Jericho, West Bank, with water for their homes and for irrigating their farms.

The Ein Al-Sultan spring supplies 900 families in Jericho with water for their for irrigating their farms.

The Ein Al-Sultan project came at an opportune time with yet another Intifada erupting in the West Bank, making mobility and access to natural resources even more difficult. Jericho was re-occupied by Israel in 2001, and Palestinian traffic was controlled by military checkpoint surrounding the city.

Boasting a little oasis of citrus and banana groves, and bountiful palm trees, many of Jericho’s inhabitants relied solely on agriculture for their income—and they still do. They depend mostly on the largest of the city’s five springs, known as Ein Al-Sultan. But limited water resources and the deterioration of water networks there had gravely threatened the sector.

With funding from the UN and Jericho municipality, ANERA was able to modernize Ein Al-Sultan’s decayed water system and transform it into a sophisticated and reliable system that delivers a steady flow of water to 900 families every day.

Before the system was finished in 2006, farmers relied on an outdated system of exposed concrete canals, which affected the flow and quality of water, let alone caused huge water losses.

“This modern system has helped many farmers get back on their feet again and tend to their fields, as they now receive fresh water at a constant pressure and flow,” explains Mazen.

Learn more about the Ein Al-Sultan spring water project in ANERA’s film

Sharing Knowledge, Gaining Land

Not only has the Israeli-Palestinian conflict taken a toll on Palestinian farmers’ mobility, it has often separated them physically from one another. As Palestinian communities remain separated by military checkpoints, illegal Israeli settlements and a 700 km-long separation wall, farmers have often found themselves isolated and out of touch with the latest developments and technologies in agriculture.

Palestine agriculture history knowledge sharing crops

West Bank farms thrive when farmers share their best practices.

In 2012, ANERA, in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, embarked on a unique program that introduced basic knowledge-sharing tools to keep farmers across the West Bank connected and up to date. The 15-month project was part of a bigger regional program funded through KariaNet and IDRC and implemented across the Middle East and North Africa.

The program’s ultimate purpose is to encourage land reclamation in mountainous areas where water is scarce and resources are limited. It has encouraged new farmers to reclaim their abandoned lands by connecting with others to learn how they succeeded. The program produced a series of short films documenting the best farming practices of successful farmers, a feature-length documentary, two first-of-a-kind farmers’ conferences, farmer wives’ meetings and pages on Facebook and Youtube for sharing of materials and ideas.

Naser Qadous, ANERA’s agricultural project manager, explains: “Because there are physical barriers disconnecting our communities, a huge number of farmers, especially those who are younger or newer to the field, remain under-informed and in need of guidance. That is why there is a need among Palestinian farmers to communicate and exchange knowledge in a safe and vibrant environment that transcends physical barriers, namely social media networks.”

Introducing Green Tactics to Combat Scarcity

ANERA’s newest program for helping West Bank farmers is a three-year project that will reuse water from a wastewater treatment plant to irrigate over 700 acres of farmland in the Jenin area and build a water reservoir and water distribution networks that will benefit hundreds of families. It will also introduce new crop varieties, conduct training and awareness sessions and organize study tours to help build farmers’ awareness of best practices.

palestine agriculture history wastewater project reservoir

The new wastewater treatment and reuse project will help farmers to fill individual reservoirs like this one for crop irrigation.

“Due to the scarcity of water, farmers in Jenin are forced to purchase water at very high costs for irrigation or abandon their lands,” says Naser. “This project helps decrease the use of drinking water for farming, and eventually increase the income of farming families and ease their hardships. Hopefully, it will encourage more farmers to reclaim their lands and become productive.”

Water scarcity is even a graver issue in besieged Gaza, coupled with movement restrictions, overpopulation, unemployment and overwhelming poverty. In an attempt to relieve some of the burden of poverty in Gaza, ANERA has provided poor families across southern Gaza with greenhouses, seedlings and irrigation systems to grow their own food. With 50% of Gaza’s population battling unemployment, the program attempts to relieve some of the financial pressure people feel by helping them become self-sufficient. The Gaza greenhouses help families put food on their table no matter the season or political situation.

What lies ahead for ANERA is a continued investment in this sector that has proven its steadfastness and inexhaustible bounty. Amidst the many hardships faced by Palestinians, the land is a fundamental source of employment and economic security. After more than 40 years of commitment to the agricultural sector, ANERA is determined that Palestinian farmers shall continue to reap the fruits from their own labor and devotion.

Palestine agriculture history gaza greenhouses

Home greenhouses enable Gaza families to grow their own fresh food.

 

Want to learn more? View our timeline of ANERA’s history in Palestine agriculture.

Water for Gaza families Mohanad smiling

Restoring water for Gaza families

February 18th, 2015 by ANERA

Mohanad Mousa couldn’t wait to tell his family what he had learned in his science class about water. The eight-year-old proudly repeated the facts: rain is a source of water and water brings goodness and blessings to the earth. But that blessing is elusive for Mohanad and his family who have been without running water at home in Gaza for many years. Mohanad’s mother Fatima explains, “We live far away from any water connections. Our community has been left behind and forgotten.” She says the families have filed complaints, but nothing has been done.

The community in Beit Hanoun where Mohanad and his family live suffers sharp decreases in the supply of water at home, especially during the summer when the need for water is high. The family purchases water in town when they can, but this greatly strains the family budget.

ANERA has improved water connections to 12,000 households in war-ravaged areas of Gaza, generating a reliable source of water for cooking, showering and drinking.

Fatima’s husband collects plastic for recycling, but that doesn’t bring much revenue. “A big chunk of our limited income goes to purchasing water,” Fatima says. “We pay 15 shekels ($3.50) to fill our 1000-liter storage tank,” she explains. Fatima and her family use that water for domestic use, like showering and cleaning, and for drinking. A full tank of water usually lasts for about three days. “I try to be as prudent as possible with the water, but I have children and they need it,” says Fatima.

Living in an area without a reliable source of water has been very difficult for Fatima. She remembers the days when she and her husband stayed up until 3 a.m. hoping to get precious water when it sporadically flowed from the tap. “We used to have water for two hours a day, but mostly late in the night. If we were lucky, we would wake up in time to fill our water tank,” she recalls.

Fatima and her family were thrilled when they heard the news that ANERA would be connecting their community to a steady flow of water.

The water project, funded by Islamic Relief USA, aims to restore water supply lines to homes and communities that were damaged in the recent conflict. In total, 12,000 families—in Beit Hanoun, Al Shujaeya, Al Bureij, Al Nussierat, Deir Al Balah, Bani Suhiela and Rafah Al Shoka—will be connected to water.

Now when Fatima looks up at her full water tank, her eyes shine with delight and relief. It is one less worry for her family. “The water situation is so much better now,” she says. “It rarely cuts off. Our water tank is filled most of the time and we are saving money.”

Water for Gaza families Mohanad fills bottle

Now that Mohanad’s home is connected to a water network, he can fill his water bottle any time from the tank.

Water for Gaza homes is a blessing

“Water is life and blessings. No words can describe the excitement of having water in my house!” exclaims Sabah Shabat, a grandmother of five, as she washes her dishes.

Water for Gaza grandmother and her grand kids Beit Hanoun

Sabah and her grandchildren are very grateful for restored access to water in their home.

But that wasn’t the case during the 2014 Gaza war, when the water trucks weren’t able to reach the neighborhood because of the intensive bombings. “My husband and sons took the empty tanks on donkey carts to the center of Beit Hanoun to fill them with water. Each time they left, I had constant worries until they returned. But we had no other options,” she says.

Sabah has lived in the same area for five years and feels the difference the new water network has made. “Water is essential to our lives,” she says, surrounded by her young grandchildren.

The delight and relief shared by Fatima and Sabah are reflected in other families in the neighborhood who say they are counting their blessings with the new water connections that make their life a bit easier in otherwise difficult conditions. 

View slideshow:

Water for Gaza blond girl with cup Beit Hanoun
Water for Gaza families grandmother in Beit Hanoun
Water for Gaza Mohanad family Beit Hanoun
Water for Gaza girl smiling washing hands

Sabah's granddaughter enjoys a cup of water. She's happy to have clean running water in her home.

Sabah, grandmother of five young children, says water is a blessing.

Fatima, Mohanad, and the rest of their family now have life-saving access to water in their home.

Before ANERA's recent water project, children like Sabah's granddaughter couldn't even wash their hands in the bathroom sink.

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Water for Gaza girl smiling washing hands thumbnail

Imagine waking up in the morning to find your limbs tied down tightly to the bed with heavy chains. This is how 51-year-old rheumatoid arthritis patient Hana Abu-Mahdiyeh feels every morning.

“The most difficult part of my day is getting out of bed, and that takes a couple of hours,” explains Hana. “Once I am out, I do certain exercises to loosen up my joints and muscles. Once I am on the move, it gradually gets easier.”

The charitable clinic in the heart of Hebron that Hana regularly visits for routine check-ups has recently received a generous medical supply donation that will ease some of her daily suffering. The International Health Partners (IHP) donation delivered by ANERA contains two-compression bandage kits for the foot and ankle, which Hana, among many other patients, has found to be quite helpful.

After performing a general check-up on her, Dr. Wael Al-Rajabi told Hana about the newly donated bandages and carefully wrapped one around her foot and ankle. He explained that two layers provide a soft, yet firm support.

“Hana had an operation around three years ago to repair a joint deformity in her left foot caused by her illness,” said Dr. Rajabi. He explained that deformity and the formation of nodules are natural effects of the progression of the illness, which cannot be permanently repaired. Hana still suffers from great pain in that same foot, which she treats with medication and the regular use of bandages.

“Although we cannot stop the progression of the illness, we can always try to ease her pain and aid her through the tasks of her daily life,” said Dr. Rajabi.

medical donation bandages hebron clinic

Dr. Rajabi wraps Hana’s foot in a two-layered compression bandage.

Relying on the kindness of others to survive

Rheumatoid arthritis has accompanied Hana through every second of her life since she was only 17 years old. She used to be quite active and very much into knitting, which, for some years, was her sole source of income.

“I used to be quite skilled at knitting,” she reminisced. “But after my illness, my role was restricted to supervising other women at a small clothing factory in Hebron. Soon enough though, I could no longer remain in my job, or any other job.”

Eight years ago, Hana lost her husband. She currently relies on charity to get by. She and her sister live with her brother and his family. Unfortunately, rheumatoid arthritis is not her only adversity—she also suffers from diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure. Hana relies on the free in-kind supplies at the charitable clinic, and it is vital to her survival. Like most of the residents Hebron’s Old City, she has only a few places to turn to for treatment, free of charge.

“The medical donations coming in through ANERA make up a huge part of our supply, and they all go to impoverished people who cannot afford them otherwise,” Dr Rajabi stated. “For people like Hana, this place is an anchor, and your donations, no matter how big or small, keep us afloat.”