Husband and wife in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. The husband relies on heart medicine ANERA delivers to a nearby charitable clinic.

[VIDEO] Love Stories for World Heart Day 2014

September 29th, 2014 by ANERA

According to the World Heart Federation, heart disease and strokes are the world’s leading cause of death, killing 17.1 million people every year. That is more than cancer, HIV and AIDS and malaria.

In honor of World Heart Day, ANERA features the story of two couples in Lebanon in love. The husbands both take heart medicine that ANERA delivers to clinics across Lebanon.

Heart Medicine Helps Families in Lebanon Cope with Chronic Disease

Every year, ANERA distributes 12+ shipments from AmeriCares containing chronic disease medications, like those that treat heart conditions.

West Bank clinic treats ulcer patients with free medicines donated by AmeriCares.

West Bank Clinics Get Medicines to Ease Ulcers

September 29th, 2014 by lkassman

For two years, 65-year-old Ata Zidat  has been a regular visitor to a charitable clinic in his town of Bani Na’im, in the southern West Bank. Zidat is a father of 11 now grown up children and the grandfather of 22 kids. He suffers from chronic ulcers.

Donation of vital medicines eases financial burden for West Bank partients.

Like many people in his village, he is unemployed and lives in poverty. “Before coming here to consult with the doctor, I used to buy the medication from a private drug store and it cost me $6.50, which is a heavy burden for a chronic ulcer patient like me,” he explained. 

Now Zidat receives his ulcer medication for free at the town clinic, thanks to ANERA’s in-kind delivery of AmeriCares’ recent donation of Nu Lev chewable tablets (Hyoscyamine Sulfate).

West Bank clinic treats ulcer patients free, thanks to donated medicines from AmeriCares.

Ulcer patient Ata Zidat gets treated in his town clinic.

“If you go into our pharmacy, you will see that one third of our medications are donated through ANERA,” says Dr. Issa Qdeimat. “This recent AmeriCares donation will cover us for the rest of the year, soothing the pain of so many needy patients suffering from ulcers.”

Over the past two years, Zidat has shown great improvement in his health, and now only needs his medication when his stomach and large intestines are irritated. Zidat also admits he has been a smoker since his teenage years and says his biggest failing is his inability to stop. Dr. Issa says smoking, coupled with poor nutrition, can cause major health problems such as ulcers.

His former job as a truck driver between Amman and Baghdad and bad eating habits on the road did not help either, the doctor adds.  “Aside from being a heavy smoker, he also relied on coffee, sandwiches and canned foods to stay alert at the wheel.”

Poor patients like Zidat rely entirely on the generosity of the free clinic for their health care. “So when ANERA supplies us with such important medicines, it greatly eases our financial burdens,” Dr. Issa explains. “The donations enable us to function efficiently and ensure that each patient in our clinic gets the medical attention and treatment they need at a minimal cost or no cost at all.”

Razan is on the court in northern Lebanon, ready to play with her girls' basketball team.

Sports for Peace Attracts Young Girls in Lebanon

September 23rd, 2014 by lkassman

Razan’s eyes are full of joy and excitement as she waits on the bench and watches her teammates play. With a critical eye and competitive spirit, she checks their routine and glances over at her relatives from time to time.

Sports for Peace helps young girls bridge sectarian divides in northern Lebanon.

This is the story of 13-year-old Razan Saad Ghomrani from Qarqaf who is taking part in the basketball training session at her school. ANERA organized the session as part of the Sports for Peace II project that aims at strengthening cooperation and coexistence among communities in northern Lebanon that have experienced sectarian tensions.

The village of Qarqaf, like many others located in Akkar region of Lebanon, is plagued by poverty, electricity cuts, unpaved streets, a shortage of clean water and a lack of educational programs. The area’s resources also have been stretched by the influx of refugees from Syria, nearly one-third of the million who have arrived in Lebanon.

But, on a quiet Wednesday afternoon, the usual worries and complaints are replaced by the sound of laughter and bouncing balls. The tensions between host and refugee communities have melted away as the coach yells out, “I need to see you dribble the ball and not let it go.” Razan and her young teammates giggle as they try to obey her, ignoring the usual social rivalries and focusing on just having fun.

Ghiwa kabbara (far right) works with her girls' basketball team in northern Lebanon.

Ghiwa kabbara (far right), a basketball player living in Tripoli, coaches the girls team, in the process teaching them peace-building, tolerance, discipline, cooperation and conflict resolution.

Razan was excited to join the team. “The wife of Qarqaf’s mayor called my mother and told her about the training session in the school playground and asked if she would like me to join.”

Razan was born and raised in Qarqaf and knows most of the kids there, but had not really mingled with them socially. “I don’t see my friends a lot because they live far from my house so when we found out about the training I thought it would be great if we could all join together,” she says. “And now I get to see them twice a week and make new friends too.”

Some 40 girls from Qarqaf have joined the initiative, which is part of the Sports for Peace program funded by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). The aim of the project is to use sports to bridge the gap between conflicting communities.

Even after Razan plays on the field she doesn’t go home but prefers to linger and watch her friends play. She often comes early too so she can chat and be with other girls her own age. “During breaks we get to talk about random things, like school and our families and we drink water until we can get back to the game,” Razan says.

Like her friends, Razan sees this program as a way to bond, create new friendships, stay active and have fun. She says the girls have stopped seeing their differences, their different nationalities and dialects. Now, they just play and laugh and work together as a team with a feeling of confidence and joy.

Razan exclaims with a smile, “We wish this will never end.”

Bill Corcoran looks at destroyed buildings in Gaza.

Gaza Trip Report, September 2014

September 10th, 2014 by ANERA

by ANERA President Bill Corcoran

With the buzz of drones overhead I was processed through Erez Crossing into Gaza. My baggage comprised two backpacks full of gifts from HQ staff for Gaza co-workers and water bottles for me. On the other side, the Hamas terminal had been obliterated by bombing, along with the luggage scanners and banks of computers for data processing. It was all replaced by a small trailer and some note takers with pad and pen. No bags were checked.

Once we left the terminal, I could see the full extent of the damage. I was shocked, even after having worked in Indonesia after the Tsunami.

Beit Hanoon (in the north) almost doesn’t exist anymore. Numbers are still being gathered, but an estimated 60% of the homes were made useless, at least for now. Once a fertile agricultural area, its destroyed fields can’t even be accessed now for fear of unexploded bombs. Animals by the hundreds were killed in their pens and coops. Water wells were damaged so irrigation is impossible.

Farmland and greenhouses throughout Gaza's agriculture communities were destroyed.

Farmland and greenhouses throughout Gaza’s agriculture communities were destroyed.

Our partner, Al Najda Farm Cooperative, lost four tons of processed food when the refrigerator units were machine-gunned. They were distributing our food parcels when I arrived. Teenagers ran up to me thanking ANERA for the food we have distributed. Many of the ANERA food parcels were packaged in reusable plastic laundry baskets. This was part ingenuity and part necessity on the part of our staff. Gaza’s only cardboard factory had been destroyed. In fact, over 150 factories have been leveled, including those essential to rebuilding and food production. Experts estimate it will take a year for most of the power grid to be operational, provided that spare parts for repair are allowed into Gaza.

A mother picks up an ANERA food parcel filled with good quality, ready-to-eat foods packed in a reusable laundry basket.

A mother picks up an ANERA food parcel filled with good quality, ready-to-eat foods packed in a reusable laundry basket.

During the four days I spent in Gaza I saw our staff energized by the work they were doing.

During the four days I spent in Gaza I saw our staff energized by the work they were doing, as their relief efforts reach more and more families and their damage assessments move forward. But they cannot completely ease their fear that the ceasefire may not hold. They also worry that if restrictions are not eased for the entry of building materials and the freer passage of people, then their future is bleak.

As I drove through different communities I was seeing the new normal of Gaza. Between Khan Younis and Rafah along the new Israeli buffer zone, villages like Khoza’a were 75% wiped out. Abissan was less so because it was more rural. But their fields are unworkable. Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC), calculates that just restoring production capacity will cost $500 million.

One of many children ANERA President Bill Corcoran saw during his trip to Gaza in September 2014.

One of many barefooted children Bill Corcoran saw during his Gaza trip.

Many families spray-painted their names and cellphone numbers on their homes during the war. It was a way to claim ownership and also a means of notification if the house were damaged. Other homes now display bright plastic banners depicting a loved one who died there. Too many of these photos were of children.

Amid the despair and sadness, there is one image that remains with me from my trip to Gaza: an elderly Palestinian sitting with his grandchildren outside the remains of his house. When he saw me and ANERA staffer Rania Elhilou snapping photos, he insisted that we sit with him on some broken white plastic chairs there and have some tea. Dignity and hospitality even amid the ruins. This is Gaza.

Bill Corcoran visits one of the 87 2,500-liter water tanks that ANERA has placed in communities throughout Gaza.

Bill Corcoran visits one of the 87 2,500-liter water tanks that ANERA has placed in communities throughout Gaza.

Nahed helps a young girl in Khan Younis with the bottles she just filled at a water tanker ANERA brought to her community during the bombings.

Saluting ANERA’s Gaza Staff

September 9th, 2014 by ANERA

ANERA’s Gaza office is made up of seasoned education, health and development professionals. For 51 days in July and August, they – like everyone else in Gaza – feared for their lives as bombs rained down on their tiny strip of land. No one felt safe. And yet, despite the bombs and the fear, ANERA’s staff set aside their professional duties and responded to the crisis in whatever way they could be most useful. They took on a variety of emergency relief roles because they wanted to help the neediest in the devastated communities around them.

With the ceasefire, the full scope of what needs to be done becomes clearer every day. ANERA’s staff is still distributing relief items like water, food, hygiene kits and more. But they have also resumed their professional roles, doing damage assessments and talking to families who have been displaced to see what more is needed for long-term rebuilding.

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Abeer Aqeel at her desk in the ANERA Gaza office.
Ahmad Al-Najjar, ANERA's Gaza in-kind program coordinator, sets up a water tank in the Khan Younis area of Khoza’a.
Ashraf El-Shobaki, ANERA's Infrastructure Coordinator in Gaza
Dema El-Tabba' sits at her desk in the ANERA's office in Gaza.
Faisal stands in front of a fuel tank that ANERA has filled at a desalination facility in Gaza.
Islam Muhanna
Marwa Sbaih
Mohammed Al Ghussein (center) stands with ANERA President Bill Corcoran in front of one of 87 water tanks ANERA has set up across Gaza.
Mohammad is a freelance photojournalist who began taking photos of ANERA’s work during the war in the earliest days of our response.
Mohammad unloads a large shipment of donated medicines, delivering them to a Gaza City hospital.
ANERA's Gaza pharmacist and warehouse manager, Mostafa Al Ghosain, delivers 5,500 vials of life-saving antibiotics to Gaza's largest surgical hospital.
Mousa Shawwa
Nahed helps a young girl in Khan Younis with the bottles she just filled at a water tanker ANERA brought to her community during the bombings.
Rania at a church in Gaza City where ANERA distributed food parcels to displaced families
Sabah Al-Barakoni, ANERA's Gaza Office Manager
Sami Mater, ANERA project engineer, delivers water to displaced children in Jabalia in northern Gaza.

Abeer Aqeel, Office Engineer, PCID

Assisting in the rapid response action plans for USAID’s Palestinian Community Infrastructure Development Program, Abeer handles the paperwork that maintains a steady supply of bottled water, hygiene kits and water tankers to UNRWA shelters as well as fuel deliveries to water facilities. She keeps up-to-date with community needs in order to ensure the flow of relief aid for displaced families while working with the other ANERA engineers to help rebuild Gaza.

Ahmad Al-Najjar, In-Kind Program Coordinator

In mid-July, as more and more people were wounded and medical facilities were overstretched, Ahmad helped process and deliver medicines to Gaza City's major surgical hospital. He also took on a role outside of his usual duties when he became the "water man" in his hometown of Khan Younis. He situated large water tanks across hard-hit communities and set up a system to ensure that water tankers come every day to fill them up. Now, Ahmad returns to his duties as in-kind coordinator to help clinics and hospitals reequip themselves with medicines and other depleted health care supplies.

Ashraf El-Shobaki, Infrastructure Coordinator for PCID

In the midst of and after the bombardment of Gaza, Ashraf actively coordinated the safe passage of dozens of trucks loaded with hygiene kits and bottled water, brought in from the West Bank and purchased with USAID funds through the Palestinian Community Infrastructure Development Program. Thousands of families at UN shelters received the much-needed relief. Ashraf also coordinated the delivery of much-needed fuel to desalination and sewage treatment plants. He continues in both of those roles while doing damage assessments for future infrastructure rebuilding activities.

Dema El-Tabba’, Administrative Assistant

One of Dema's primary roles is to answer the phone in the ANERA office. As peace has returned to Gaza and the office has opened up again, more and more calls are coming in from displaced people and partner organizations who need help. Many are desperate and despondent, but Dema's soothing demeanor calms them and she is able help by directing all who need assistance to the appropriate person in the office who can respond.

Faisal Abu Shahla, Gaza Area Manager for PCID

As soon as ANERA got funding from USAID for water and hygiene kit deliveries, Faisal has worked to ensure that relief trucks get into Gaza safely. Simultaneously, he has been able to rapidly respond by buying water and hygiene kits from local Gaza suppliers. Faisal also coordinates delivery of fuel for water desalination plants and water pumping facilities to keep them running so thousands of families have drinking water. On his damage assessment visits, he and the other engineers have been shocked by the scale of the destruction of homes, roads, schools, businesses and hospitals. The Palestinian Community Infrastructure Development Program team of engineers will do their best to respond, given the restrictions on building supply imports.

Islam Muhanna, Agronomist

Islam was on maternity leave when the bombs started falling in July. With each new image of a child killed, she feared terribly for the safety of her newborn baby. But she took heart as she stayed in touch with ANERA staff and learned they were all okay. She also saw ANERA out in her own community distributing water and hygiene kits at nearby shelters. Now that she's back at the office she is confronting a lot of challenges to the agricultural sector, which took a huge beating in the bombings. She'll be helping to restore productivity to small home gardens and larger farms so markets can restock the fresh fruits and vegetables that so are vital to the good health of families.

Marwa Sbaih, Intern, Early Childhood Development Program

During the war Marwa stayed in contact with teachers and principals at ANERA's extensive network of preschools, especially those located in marginalized areas so near to the bombings. When the ceasefire took effect, Marwa immediately got to work with ANERA's early childhood development team, documenting the damage to preschools across Gaza. The team's priority is to try and get as many children back to school as soon as possible.

Mohammed Al Ghussein, Project Officer, Early Childhood Development Program

Mohammad (center in photo) volunteered often during the war to go out onto the streets to help his community. He went to ANERA's warehouse and to shelters for the displaced, helping to process food, medicine, water and hygiene deliveries and distributing them to thousands of people in dire situations. Mohammad had an opportunity to leave Gaza as the bombs started falling but he chose to stay and be there for his people during their time of need. Holding a PhD in Early Childhood Development, Mohammad is currently doing damage assessments at more than 150 preschools as the school year begins. After 51 days of bombing, a great many schools need work to be readied for the children's return.

Mohammad Zanoon, Photographer

Mohammad is a freelance photojournalist who began taking photos of ANERA’s work during the war in the earliest days of our response. His images also captured the horrors of the war through poignant portraits of people and landscapes of rubble and smoke. Mohammad will continue working with ANERA in the upcoming months to tell the story of Gaza’s path to recovery.

Mohammed Abu Jahal, Warehouse Assistant

From the earliest days of the war, Mohammed came out to ANERA's Gaza City warehouse many times to process large shipments of medicines and health care supplies. He and other ANERA emergency response staff worked hard to quickly get these vital supplies ready for pick-up, as health care workers were scrambling to treat the huge number of wounded who needed care. With many more such shipments expected in the warehouse soon, Mohammed will continue to work efficiently to get things in and out the door.

Mostafa Al Ghosain, In-Kind Manager

From the earliest days of the bombings, Mostafa was at the ANERA warehouse in Gaza City receiving 3 large shipments of donated medicines and medical supplies. These came in hundreds of boxes which had to be inventoried and repackaged for different hospitals, according to their needs. Mostafa and other staff made sure that the largest surgical hospital, Al Shifa, and 6 other local health partners got the medicines and supplies they urgently needed as they responded to the influx of wounded. He also delivered locally-purchased surgical antibiotics, anesthetics and anti-coagulants that were completely depleted at Al Shifa Hospital. ANERA is expecting many more shipments of medical supplies in the upcoming months and Mostafa and his team will ensure they get to the clinics and hospitals most in need.

Mousa Shawwa, Support Services

Mousa came out during the war to help ANERA's emergency team in distributing water and hygiene kits for displaced families at UNRWA shelters. He also worked to get the best prices for procurement of food parcels. Because of his efforts, ANERA was able to purchase thousands of good quality food parcels, which were distributed to displaced families. Mousa is a kind of jack-of-all-trades in the Gaza office and will continue to provide a myriad of support services to our relief and development programs as Gaza rebuilds.

Nahed Al-Wehaidi, ANERA Gaza Director

As head of the Gaza office, Nahed was the main coordinator of all of ANERA's relief activities during the war. He also personally went to many sites to help process medicine deliveries for hospitals and distribute water and food to displaced families. Nahed liaised on a daily basis with upper-level staff in Washington and Jerusalem to ensure that vital information was flowing freely back and forth globally. Moving forward, Nahed will continue to coordinate ANERA's relief work while overseeing all efforts to rebuild and repair infrastructure, as building materials become available.

Rania Elhilou, Communications Officer

Nearly every day for 51 days Rania wrote a journal entry for anera.org to share with ANERA's community the horrors she was suffering as bombs rained down all around her. Her story echoed hundreds of thousands who lived in fear of dying every day. Now that the ceasefire is in effect, Rania is busily writing stories, reaching out to media, getting pictures and collecting data from ANERA's response throughout Gaza.

Sabah Al-Barakoni, Gaza Office Manager

When bombs were falling ANERA's top priority was safety of staff, so Sabah and the Gaza director asked them to stay indoors. Despite terrible communication network problems, Sabah stayed in daily contact with all of ANERA's Gaza staff to make sure that they and their families were safe. When there were ceasefires or gaps in the bombings, she coordinated with staff to come into the office or to go to sites where ANERA's relief work was happening. Going forward, Sabah will continue to support the Gaza team with all of the behind-the-scenes logistical, financial and administrative work necessary to rebuild in Gaza.

Sami Matar, Project Engineer, Early Childhood Development Program

During the war Sami and his family were forced to evacuate their home, but he managed to help deliver food and hygiene kits as well as to set up water storage tanks for displaced families in all of Gaza, from the south to the north. Since the ceasefire, Sami has begun assessing damage to the water and sewage networks that ANERA can help repair. As a member of ANERA’s early childhood development team, he is also visiting preschools that ANERA had built or renovated in the past in order to prioritize their repairs moving forward. Some 60% of our participant preschools have sustained damage.

Abeer Aqeel, Office Engineer, PCID thumbnail
Ahmad Al-Najjar, In-Kind Program Coordinator thumbnail
Ashraf El-Shobaki, Infrastructure Coordinator for PCID thumbnail
Dema El-Tabba’, Administrative Assistant thumbnail
Faisal Abu Shahla, Gaza Area Manager for PCID thumbnail
Islam Muhanna, Agronomist thumbnail
Marwa Sbaih, Intern, Early Childhood Development Program thumbnail
Mohammed Al Ghussein, Project Officer, Early Childhood Development Program thumbnail
Mohammad Zanoon, Photographer thumbnail
Mohammed Abu Jahal, Warehouse Assistant thumbnail
Mostafa Al Ghosain, In-Kind Manager thumbnail
Mousa Shawwa, Support Services thumbnail
Nahed Al-Wehaidi, ANERA Gaza Director thumbnail
Rania Elhilou, Communications Officer thumbnail
Sabah Al-Barakoni, Gaza Office Manager thumbnail
Sami Matar, Project Engineer, Early Childhood Development Program thumbnail