In northern Lebanon, youth volunteers are picking trash off the streets and learning how to protect their environment. These volunteers are part of a new pilot program addressing the Lebanon trash crisis in Nahr El Bared camp and the nearby village of Mashha.

Soumayya Al-Khaled was the first to volunteer. She is a shopkeeper living in a neighborhood known to be one of the few clean areas in the camp. “Cleanliness has always been important in our neighborhood, and families regularly take turns cleaning,” Soumayya said.

That’s why Soumayya’s neighborhood was selected as a starting point for ANERA’s pilot solid waste management program, funded by a private foundation. The program aims to promote the culture of recycling and proper waste collection in areas that struggled with too much trash.

“I happened to be in the area when ANERA staff were visiting. That’s how I first got to know about the project,” Soumayya said.


The Lebanon trash crisis began in 2015 but trash collection is still a problem in much of the country. In the confined spaces of refugee camps like Nahr El Bared, waste disposal is even more difficult.

Sorting Trash One Household at a Time

There are about 30,000 residents in Nahr El Bared who traditionally have relied on the UN to collect their trash. Because it wasn’t always dependable, many residents ignored the trash pickup schedule. So garbage overflowed trash scattered throughout the narrow streets of the camp.

“By sorting our trash, we improve our health and the environment,” said Daed.

Sometimes residents dumped trash in a sports field inside the camp or along the sea shore, putting the health of the children and the environment at risk.

Each of the 350 participating households received two recycling bins to sort their trash. Volunteers like Soumayya helped distribute the bins. To get people excited, volunteers plan awareness activities throughout the camp, like a festival and an environmental-themed Ramadan calendar. Volunteers meet weekly to brainstorm environmental awareness activities and ways to address the Lebanon trash crisis. Last month, they planted trees around the camp. Over the summer, they led a beach cleaning campaign with over 250 people participating.

“The bin delivery and the regular check-ins from volunteers motivated us to sort our trash at home,” said Daed Hijjo, a mother from Nahr El Bared. Daed noticed that her neighborhood became visibly cleaner after the start of the program. She now gives all plastic waste to a local scavenger who sells it for cash. “By sorting our trash, we improve our health and the environment,” said Daed.

Kids clean up in a project addressing the Lebanon trash crisis.
A child plants trees in Nahr El Bared camp.
Soumayya plants a tree as part of an initiative to address the Lebanon trash crisis.
Children plant trees in Lebanon.
Garbage on the road in northern Lebanon.
Planting trees to help solve Lebanon trash crisis.
Planting trees in Nahr El Bared.
Youth volunteer plants a tree in Nahr El Bared.
Lebanon trash crisis in Nahr El Bared camp.
Children line up to plant trees in Nahr El Bared.
Women in an environmental awareness session in Lebanon.
Awareness session on Lebanon trash crisis.
Trash was dumped in a sports field in Nahr El Bared, Lebanon.
Kids in Nahr El Bared take part in solid waste management project.
Volunteers in Nahr El Bared plant trees.
Volunteers work to fix Lebanon trash crisis.

Soumayya puts gloves on the young volunteers taking part in the solid waste management program in Nahr El Bared, Lebanon.

A child helps plant trees in Nahr El Bared camp, Lebanon.

Soumayya plants a tree to deter informal garbage dumping in Nahr El Bared refugee camp.

Children dressed up in ANERA caps get ready to plant trees in Nahr El Bared.

A youth volunteer surveys the garbage on a road in northern Lebanon.

A greener environment helps address the Lebanon trash crisis.

Residents are less likely to dump garbage where a beautiful tree stands.

A youth volunteer digs a spot for a new tree.

The Lebanon trash crisis has been especially troubling for camps like Nahr El Bared, which lack space and infrastructure for waste management.

Children eagerly line up to plant trees in Nahr El Bared.

Women from the village of Mashha take part in an environmental awareness session organized by volunteers.

In the village of Mashha, youth volunteers organized environmental awareness sessions for residents.

Before the project, trash was frequently dumped in a sports field in Nahr El Bared.

Kids in Nahr El Bared get excited to plant trees.

Camp residents decided that planting trees would be a deterrent to informal garbage dumping.

Soumayya, left, poses with other leaders of the solid waste management program in Nahr El Bared.

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Scenes of vast olive groves flash by while driving through the village of Wadi Salqa, Gaza. The scent of fresh baked bread on the breeze captivates. But few realize what a privilege it is to experience these sensory splendors. The poor and disabled don’t always get to take in the beauty of their village.

“Poverty in this village is rife,” said Abu Hassam, a dedicated community leader. “Villagers depend on welfare assistance which basically consists of flour and cooking oil,” he added.

“My dream is that one day I can to stand on my feet again,” Fathi said.

Across the street, Fathi Abu Moghasib lay on his bed that he had not left for months. He cleared his throat and recited the story of how he became disabled. After a car accident, Fathi was admitted to a hospital for x-rays and testing only to find out that he would never walk again. “What I once took for granted is now a dream for me,” he said.

What Life is Like for People with Disabilities in Gaza


Fathi’s wife Suad helps him move around their house on his new wheelchair donated by Wheels to Heal.

Without a proper wheelchair, Fathi stayed at home bound to his bed most of the time. His wife Suad said the family had no food in their fridge for four months.

One day, Fathi borrowed an electric wheelchair from his neighbor who was undergoing surgery. “It turned out that the wheelchair was broken,” said Suad. “The moment he sat on it, he fell off and had three fractures in his left arm.”

Now Fathi uses a working wheelchair that ANERA shipped through a medical relief program for the disabled in Gaza. His wheelchair was one of 100 donated by Wheels to Heel, in partnership with four local community-based organizations.


Before the Wheels to Heal donation, the only wheelchair Fathi had access to was broken and non-functional.

New Wheels Bring New Views

With the help of his teenage son, Fathi gets on his new wheelchair, and Suad wheels him around their house. “The destruction from war has never deterred me from seeing the beauty of our village,” he said, sitting in one of the destroyed rooms in his house. A small window overlooked trees in the backyard.  

When the daytime weather cools off, Fathi’s son, Ahmed, wheels him through the narrow streets of Wadi Salqa. “My favorite sight is the olive groves and I love the scent of baked bread, too,” he said. “Today I’ve seen the light of my village. My dream is that one day I can stand on my feet again.”


Now that Fathi has mobility, he can experience the beauty of life.

“I never thought of returning to school,” said 15-year-old Darine Awad, who dropped out in the fourth grade. “This is also the case for my six other siblings who all dropped out.”

Leaving school early is not uncommon in Rashidiyeh camp in southern Lebanon, where Darine lives. Nor is it uncommon in other refugee camps in Lebanon. 

In fact, Syrian children drop out of school at an astonishing rate of 70 percent. And around 20 percent of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon also leave school early. Many refugee children never even get a chance to go to school. An estimated 400,000, or half, of all school-age Syrians in Lebanon are not enrolled.

Syrian and Palestinian refugees face a number of barriers to get an education in Lebanon. Schools are terribly overcrowded. The teaching language is different – Arabic in Syria and English or French in Lebanon.  And young people often want to support their families by finding work.

ANERA is turning things around for these refugees by bringing kids back into the system through basic math, language and job-skill courses at convenient times and locations.

In ANERA’s classes, students learn in a positive and encouraging environment. “The way we are treated here is different – the teachers are more patient and they give us incentives to learn,” said Darine.

School Kits Provide Refugees in Rashidiyeh Camp with Tools to Succeed

Palestinian children in Rashidiyeh camp pose with their donated school kits.

Walaa, Mahmoud, Samer and Hoda, pose with their school kits.

For refugee families struggling daily just to pay the rent and feed themselves, purchasing school supplies is out of the question. That’s why ANERA delivered kits containing pens, pencils and notebooks, which arrived just in time for the start of classes.

The donated kits helped 14-year-old Walaa Muteir, who said she is determined to pursue her education and become a doctor. Walaa’s father is a driver and can barely support his family. “My older brother dropped out of school to help him,” she said, “but then he couldn’t find a job.”

The shipment of 10,700 school kits, donated by United Methodist Committee on Relief, also came with 25,000 hygiene kits. ANERA delivered the kits to thousands of children and youth pursuing their education in Lebanon.

On the seashore of the Tal Hayat village overlooking the Mediterranean, a group of youth gather under a roofed patio to learn how to weave fishing nets. These refugee youth, like many of their peers, are not enrolled in schools. They take the fishing net classes to do what they can with their limited opportunities.

In Tal Hayat, the norm for girls and boys is to quit school in their early teens. Boys usually drop out to work and support their families, while girls often quit school to get married.

Bariaa El Ali, 14, stopped going to school in the fourth grade. She now spends her days helping her mother with housework and joining her father on fishing trips. “These classes are a great opportunity to learn how to weave fishing nets,” she said.

“I’ve always loved the sea and helping my dad in his fishing business,” said Bariaa.

Another girl, 18-year-old Marah Ahmad, takes the classes to help her fisherman husband. “Here most of the villagers work as fishermen,” she explained. “I like to sew, as a hobby, so by joining this class I’m enjoying my time and also supporting my husband.” And since fishing nets can be expensive at up to $50, knowing how to make them is an invaluable skill.

Girls Get a Chance at Finding Jobs in Lebanon

Refugee girls take courses on skills for jobs in Lebanon , like making fishing nets.

Marah weaves a fishing net in a class in Tal Hayat, a Mediterranean village where many work as fishermen.

This fishing net weaving class is one of many skills-based training courses offered by ANERA. These classes provide 5,000 out-of-school youth with entrepreneurship, employability and competency-based training. By August 2016, a total of 3,177 youth have enrolled, including more than 1,600 girls like Bariaa and Marah.

“There are many more restrictions on girls when it comes to access to education and life-skills, especially among underprivileged communities, often in rural areas, which are to some extent more conservative,” said ANERA’s Education Program Manager Nisrine Makkouk. “This is why we focus on reaching out to young girls and design classes in a way that aligns with social codes, like having gender segregated groups if necessary, or ensuring their proximity to the center of the village, camp or tented settlement.”

Marketable New Skills Generate Income for Refugees

Rashida El Atik, 14, chose to participate in a class on beadwork in the village of Meshmesh in Akkar, northern Lebanon. “I’m interested in artwork, embroidery, drawing and henna,” she said. By the end of the course, some of her relatives had already placed orders to refashion their headscarves with her beadwork. “They saw pictures of the work I’ve done and loved it,” she added. “Now, I can make my own income practicing a skill I enjoy.”

Likewise is the case of Samar Shaqara, a 16-year-old Syrian refugee who attended a chocolate molding class in nearby Hrar. She now trains at a local chocolate shop in the village and will earn an income based on sales in the coming months.

Classes like chocolate molding give refugee girls skills for jobs in Lebanon.

Samar (left) joins Nahed and Zeinab in a class on chocolate molding in Hrar, Akkar.

“The courses are not only about teaching these youth new skills, but also about enabling them to access new opportunities towards improved livelihood,” Makkouk emphasized.

The courses are part of ANERA’s education program and are planned  in partnership with UNICEF. Funding comes from the German Cooperation, UK Aid and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. ANERA coordinated with 52 local partners to implement the program in the Lebanese governorates of Akkar, Bekaa, North and South. Youth from the Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian communities benefit from the program.

Anyone who travels to the northern West Bank cannot help but notice the patchwork fields of vibrant green interspersed with dry swathes of land. There is a scarcity of water in the area and only farmers who have the funds to pay for irrigation can grow lush rows of crops. The others do what they can with limited water and financial resources.

To help these struggling farmers, ANERA’s Jenin Water Reuse Project addresses the scarcity of Palestine water resources.

“We couldn’t maintain our 12 acres of land. This project is the only solution for us to survive as farmers,” said Ashraf, a local farmer.

“We started noticing a decrease in the amount of water around 15 years ago, and it’s still getting worse as each day passes,” said Ashraf Al-Sa’adi, a local farmer. Ashraf and his three brothers are new participants in the Palestine water project, having joined just two months ago. For 27 years, Ashraf’s family has grown tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, bell peppers and other crops. Now, out of his 12 acres, he primarily farms on 1.5 acres of land irrigated with treated wastewater.

Farmers used to rely on surface wells to irrigate their crops. However due to the severe shortage of water in Palestine, the Sa’adi family cannot depend on surface wells to grow their crops anymore.

Palestine water issues are alleviated by treated wastewater irrigation.

Despite the scarcity of water in this part of the West Bank, farmers can still grow verdant fields with the help of this project.

Recycled Wastewater Makes the Most of Limited Resources

The Jenin Water Reuse Project treats wastewater so it can be reused as irrigation for fodder crops such as alfalfa and millet, and fruit trees like pomegranate, pecan and date palms. The project relies on sub-surface drip irrigation, which saves farmers time and effort they’d otherwise spend assembling and moving around water hoses. It also ensures that crops get exactly how much water they need, avoiding unnecessary water consumption.

Ashraf is a 40-year-old father of four sons and a daughter, ranging from age 12 to just a year old. This project is his only hope for sustaining a good income to provide for his young family and send them to school. Someday, he hopes that his children will inherit the farm and work the land.

“I am hoping that through this project we will be able to bring life back to the land,” said Ashraf. “When one farms, he farms for his children and not for himself.”

Shortage of water in Palestine has hurt farmers like Ashraf.

Ashraf provides for his large family with the income his farm generates. Irrigation from treated wastewater goes a long way to help.

Alfalfa Yields High Returns for Palestinian Farmers

Recently, the Al-Sa’adis harvested their alfalfa for the first time, collecting 250 bales (around 5.5 tons). They sold their first harvest at about $3 per bale. After just 20 days,  they will harvest alfalfa and millet for the second time and can sell it an even higher price of $5 per bale. Alfalfa contains fewer weeds after the first harvest, which makes it more valuable.

Alfalfa is cultivated as fodder for livestock, which is helpful for the Al-Sa’adi family because they have many animals. Their family barn shelters 45 chickens, 30 sheep, seven goats and four calves. Since alfalfa is harvested every 20-25 days, Ashraf now has plenty of fodder for his animals. This saves him a significant amount of money because animal feed is expensive. The Al-Sa’adis used to spend hundreds of dollars each month to feed their cows sheep, but the alfalfa crops provide them with all the fodder they need as well as a surplus for selling.

Alfalfa grows with treated wastewater, making it a useful crop in Jenin due to the shortage of water in Palestine.

ANERA Agriculture Project Coordinator Amal Blan stands in Ashraf’s lush fields of alfalfa crops in Jenin.

Now that Ashraf can save money on fodder, he plans to use the profit to buy more animals and start producing milk and cheese. Known as “the king of fodder,” alfalfa is a great source of protein, with three times more than the amount of protein in wheat straw. Feeding this green plant to cattle and sheep helps produce high quality dairy products.

After sharing a cup of coffee and the latest updates at the Al-Sa’adi farm, Ashraf took a ride in his truck to see his fields of alfalfa and millet. The crops cover the soil like a green carpet, creating a beautiful view from afar.