More than 1.2 million refugees from Syria are observing the holy month of Ramadan in Lebanon, far away from their homes and communities. Among them are 44,000 Palestinians who fled Syria and had nowhere else to go except Lebanon’s impoverished Palestinian refugee camps and gatherings. Surviving every day is hard both emotionally and physically and Ramadan makes it even harder. Most say they long for home more than any other time of the year.

“Ramadan is a time for family,” says Maryam, a 24-year-old mother of two. Maryam fled Yarmouk camp in Syria three years ago and sought refuge with her family in Burj El Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut. “It’s not the same,” she explains. “We fast for 16 hours and wait for the evening meal—iftar. But, it has become more and more difficult to serve a single proper meal for my family.”

This Ramadan, Maryam found great relief thanks to the timely distribution of food packages for Syrian refugees. She says her kitchen was filled with a variety of food items that could feed the family for the whole month.

ANERA, with generous support from Zakat Foundation and hundreds of individual donors, was able to distribute more than 900 food packages to 900 families, with enough to feed them for the whole month. Each food package contained a variety of essentials like rice, lentils, beans, pasta, cheese, dates, sugar, tea, milk and the traditional Jallab juice.

food packages for syrian refugees boxes: for distribution

Hundreds of food packages for Syrian refugees were distributed at the Najdeh Association in Burj El Barajneh.

Ramadan for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Camps

food packages for syrian refugees: man from refugee camp

A young man carries food packages to feed his family this Ramadan.

Ramadan is usually a festive holiday but in Burj El Barajneh residents are faced with soaring prices, poverty, and unemployment. Buying basic foods is out of the reach for Maryam and her compatriots from Yarmouk.

The camp’s Najdeh Association buzzed with energy as staff and volunteers shuffled distribution lists, handed out parcels and helped carry the boxes to families around the camp. ANERA in-kind health manager Dima Zayat said the food packages were a welcome relief for refugees who have suffered so much. “We are glad we were able to distribute these big parcels on time. Ramadan is supposed to be a time of joy and sharing and now you can see how happy the young children are to help their parents carry the gift boxes back home.”

As the families carry the food packages through the camp’s narrow dark alleys, the sounds of good cheer echoes along the wall as neighbors greet each other with a cheerful “Ramadan Kareem.” But there’s a touch of nostalgia among the Syrian refugees who respond, “Hopefully next Ramadan will be in Syria.”

food packages for syrian refugees: young boy

A young refugee boy waits for his mother to pick up their family’s food package.

After a long night of unrest and uneasy sleep, Reema Hirmas could not wait until morning to take her slightly feverish 12-year-old daughter Shahd to the medical center in Halhoul, West Bank for another checkup in less than a month. Shahd has been suffering from inflamed tonsils for a couple of weeks.

This time the doctor gave Shahd’s mother a new and more efficient penicillin antibiotic to treat her daughter’s worsening condition.

ANERA delivered the medicine Augmentin to medical centers in the West Bank in May, thanks to a generous donation from long-time ANERA partner Direct Relief. The donation to this particular center in Halhoul includes 580 units in two forms: tablets and powder for dissolving in water.

halhoul medical center doctor checkup

Shahd is looking forward to being able to play with her friends and siblings again, once her tonsils are better.

Augmentin treats infections caused by bacteria, such as sinusitis, ear infections and bronchitis, which the center’s patients suffer often. The medication is very efficient for treating acute conditions.

ANERA’s 2015 Annual Dinner on October 2 is raising funds for programs that support health & well-being. Purchase your tickets now!

“Recently, the weather this year has been unpredictable, making people vulnerable to germs, viruses and bacteria,” explains Dr. Ashraf Qdeimat. “Temperatures have risen during the day and this has significantly increased people’s intake of cold drinks and ice cream, which could further irritate an infected throat.”

On a typical day, the doctor examines at least 30 children and 20 adults complaining of bacterial infections.

halhoul medical center tonsils medicine

Dr. Qdeimat gives Reema and Shahd instructions for using the medication.

“What we always try and instill in the minds of people here is the importance of consulting a qualified doctor before taking any medication,” says Dr. Qdeimat. He says many residents in Halhoul and around Hebron, like elsewhere in the West Bank, often choose to treat themselves, without realizing they could be making their conditions worse. “Before receiving this medical relief, we used to prescribe to two medications to our patients so they often had to take two or three pills a day. This medication alone is enough and even more efficient.”

With her new medicine in hand young Shahd hopes her tonsils will get better so she can rejoin her brothers and sisters and cousins to play games and have fun. “It’s going to be great fun playing again with them without my mother worrying about me.”

Finding clean water for bathing, drinking, cooking and hygiene in Gaza is a daily challenge.

“Water is essential for life. It plays a crucial role in determining the quality of our lives,” explains Rawda Azaam, a resident of Al Mughraqa in the Middle Area of Gaza.

Living without water has harshly affected Rawda’s life. The mother of three children describes the Gaza water crisis as catastrophic. “We used to get water once every 10 days. There was no consistent schedule and the erratic time just added another burden.”

“It is a huge relief to wake up in the morning, turn on the tap and see the water come out immediately.”

The trips Rawda’s family had to make just to gain to access water were long and never-ending. “If we called the truck to supply us with potable water, it would cost us slightly more than walking on foot to fetch it ourselves from a nearby water station.” She says it was always troublesome and costly.

Water shortages in Gaza have changed a family’s social customs too. “Visiting a relative was not only social. We often opted to visit those who have water available, so we could all take a quick bath.” Rawda admits she was always uncomfortable in those situations.

New Water Connections for Many Gaza Towns

With ANERA’s help and funding from Islamic Relief USA, Rawda’s neighborhood is now connected to a new water network. That means Rawda’s family and another 500 residents finally have access to a reliable source of water.

The water connection is one of 18 Urgent Water Systems Repair projects ANERA has completed with funding from Islamic Relief. The program has also provided more than 60 job opportunities in Gaza, where four out of ten workers can’t find a job.

gaza water: young boy gets bath

With her new water connection, Rawda is thrilled that she can give her 5-year-old son Ahmed a bath every day.

During hot summers, when the need for water in Gaza soars, people try to conserve water in their home water tanks to use sparingly through the week. “It is a huge relief to wake up in the morning, turn on the tap and see the water come out immediately. During the hot months of summer, and especially during the fasting month of Ramadan, the water is a relief because it cools our bodies and our souls,” she said.

As Rawda bathed her five-year-old son, she sighed with relief. She says the new connection to her home means water is one less challenge for her community. “Now I can clean the house, wash dishes, give my children a daily bath instead of every 10 days.” With a big smile, Rawda adds, “To me this is the gift of a lifetime.”

View more photos of Rawda’s family and the new water connection in the slideshow:

gaza water: mother helps Ahmed dry off from bath
gaza water: young girl drinks from cup
Gaza water: kids drinking clean water
Gaza water project creates jobs

Rawda helps Ahmed dry off after his bath.

Rawda's daughter Mayar takes a sip from her cup of clean water.

Firas and Mayar cool off with refreshing clean water on a hot summer day in Gaza.

This water project in Al Mughraqa created 60+ jobs in a community where unemployment is high.

Gaza water: mother helps Ahmed dry off from bath thumbnail
gaza water: young girl drinks from cup thumbnail
Gaza water: kids drinking clean water thumbnail
Gaza water project creates jobs thumbnail
Idhna, Palestine landscape

ANERA in Idhna, West Bank

June 24th, 2015 by ANERA

Life in Idhna

Poverty and unemployment are not the only burdens that have weighed down families in Idhna village, in the Hebron district of the West Bank. Sadly, their hardships are many:

  • Idhna has no reliable sewage system
  • Water cisterns, used when Israel-controlled water supplies are inconsistent, are subject to contamination
  • There is no hospital in the town; instead, residents rely mainly on charitable clinics and medical centers
  • Idhna West Bank at a glanceNot enough classrooms exist for students in the town, which has necessitated renting classrooms and scheduling evening classes.

ANERA has reached out to the town, attempting to ease some of its daily hardships by addressing its water and sanitation issues, responding to health care needs, and cultivating early childhood development.

Infrastructure Interventions

Prior to ANERA’s work in the West Bank village, Idhna suffered from a scarcity of clean water due to old, unreliable pipes. In 2006, ANERA replaced a water main and a rusted network that had deteriorated in order to prevent further contamination and loss of water. This was a high-priority project because the town had endured many water-related health issues, especially from water pollution.

A few years later, ANERA successfully completed other health projects as part of a USAID-funded program. A highlight from this program was the rehabilitation and remodeling of the Idhna Government Clinic. ANERA added a new floor to house a laboratory, pharmacy and vaccination room. The project also created many much-needed jobs in the town.

Ithna Clinic Rehabilitation Palestine

The Idhna Government Clinic in 2012, after ANERA renovated and remodeled the existing ground floor and expanded the clinic to include two additional examination rooms, a laboratory, an external waiting area, a reception area and a lavatory.

Fostering Early Childhood Development

In partnership with ministries, non-profits and training organizations, ANERA’s early childhood development program reaches scores of preschools across Palestine. The Idhna Preschool is typical of the kind of school participating.

Idhna Preschool is located in a remote, underserved area and operates on a shoe-string budget. The facilities were worn down and in many cases unsafe — peeling paint, dangerous playground equipment, unsanitary and dark toilets.

idhna preschool, palestine

The post-renovation preschool provides a safe and friendly educational environment for young learners.

With funding from Dubai Cares, ANERA completely changed the conditions at the school. Windows were added, classrooms widened and painted in pastels, new curtains and ANERA-designed furniture provided, a reading corner set up with a new library of books, and new toilets and playground equipment installed.

In addition to school infrastructure, ANERA is training and mentoring the three teachers in applying good early childhood development practices in their classrooms. Parents are also actively encouraged to participate in special training sessions to help them improve their knowledge and awareness of the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive needs of their children.

Since ANERA began working with Idhna Preschool in 2013, enrollment doubled, with 95 children now attending.

Delivering Donated Medicines

ANERA’s continuous in-kind support—supplying critical medicinal and medical supplies—has helped Idhna’s health workers treat residents with various disease and infections.

In April 2015, ANERA delivered a vital donation of Omeprazole to a medical center that operates as the town’s only emergency medical care provider. This is an important medication used to treat gastric patients and, coupled with antibiotics, gastric ulcers.

Dr. Taizma shows his patient the new gastric medicine.

Dr. Tmaizi shows his patient the new gastric medicine delivered by ANERA.

In Idhna, gastrointestinal infection is common.  Dr. Ismail Tmaizi, a doctor at the charitable clinic, explains, “By infecting our water, parasites are affecting the quality of life and wearing us out. I’ve treated several cases of parasite infections among children and adults alike, sometimes several times over. “

Idhna lacks a hospital, so the residents depend entirely on charitable clinics and medical centers. This increases the financial burden of these centers.

“Without donated medicines, we would not be able to operate efficiently because constantly buying medicines drains us financially,” says Dr. Tmaizi. ANERA delivers more than one third of this center’s medicines, thanks to a generous community of donors. The medicines are distributed to patients free of charge.

Dr. Tmaizi says ANERA’s donations allow health centers to allocate what money is available to maintain their facilities and expand services, knowing that their needy patients are getting the best treatment at no cost. The medical center also offers outreach services, community health awareness sessions, volunteer work and various community activities

With 13 children of her own, 60 grandchildren, one great grandchild and more on the way, Mufida Al-Natsheh happily continues to dedicate her life to her ever-growing family. At 60, the great grandmother from Hebron, West Bank has been plagued by disease and illness that have stifled her fiery spirit and energy. For over 10 years, she has suffered from diabetes and hypertension, which are quite common in her family. Her heavy weight and lack of exercise, combined with her diseases, have resulted in ischemic heart disease, renal failure, gout and intervertebral disc problems.

And then, as she entered menopause, she developed osteoporosis, which greatly constrains her movement and causes her continual joint and bone pain.

Mufida takes 10 different pills every day to help her body function properly as well as three doses of insulin. ANERA delivers several of her medications to the charitable medical center in Hebron, which have been provided free by generous donors through ANERA’s medical supplies program. Donated medicine helps Palestinian families struggling with disease and poverty make ends meet.

Donation of Medicine to Hebron, Palestine Eases Suffering

At Palestinian clinic Hebron, donated medicine helps treat patients

A health worker at the Hebron clinic checks Mufida’s blood pressure.

After receiving a much-needed Direct Relief donation of Indomethacine, Mufida’s doctor did not hesitate to replace her old arthritis medication.

“What’s wonderful about this particular medication is that it has no side effects,” explains Dr. Wael Al-Rajabi. “Patients with a long history of diseases and illnesses, like Mufida, need a medication that is highly effective yet harmless.”

Only one capsule a day is all Mufida needs now to relieve her arthritis pains. Although it has only been a couple of weeks since Mufida started taking Indomethacine, she finds it easier on the stomach and more effective for the severest pains.

Like most of the center’s patients, Mufida is proud but poverty-stricken and must depend on the medical center for her daily medications: “If it weren’t for this center, I couldn’t have afforded proper treatment.”

When she was much younger, Mufida absolutely loved outings and keeping busy, but her health problems deter her from going out. Confined mostly to her home, Mufida still finds the time and energy to cook for her family and spoil her grandchildren. “The excellent treatment and care I receive at the medical center allow me to care for my family and surround them with love!”

ANERA’s medical supplies and in-kind program is supported by our generous donors. Donate to ANERA today to make a difference!