Ismail is wheezing and breathless before he can finish explaining his chronic condition. He’s asthmatic, and today he sits on a hospital bed in the Palestine Red Crescent Society in Dura, a town southwest of Hebron.
The 46-year-old works with construction and heavy machinery, and even wearing a face mask doesn’t guard him from constant asthma attacks. He’s always ready to fight an attack with the inhaler he keeps in his pocket, but the inhaler can only do so much to ease his pain. Each day after work, he rushes home to use a nebulizer to bring his breathing back to normal.
Ismail’s doctor at the Red Crescent Society, Dr. Ali Ghrayeb, prescribes him Albuterol Sulfate. Because his asthma is severe, Ismail requires about three bottles of Albuterol per month — and sometimes even more when his condition worsens because of spring allergies and bad weather.
Dr. Ali Ghrayeb prescribes Ismail donated Albuterol Sulfate to treat his asthma
Donated Medicine Offers a Better Alternative
As part of the in-kind program, ANERA distributed Direct Relief’s donation of 500 Albuterol packs among seven clinics in the West Bank, including the Red Crescent Society in Dura. Now Ismail doesn’t have to worry about setting money aside for his illness. He also found Albuterol to be a more effective medication for his condition.
Before the Albuterol donation, Ismail had to combine two different medicines to use his nebulizer. The combination caused him heart palpitations and tremors, and was also time consuming because he had to measure and mix the two components in order to use the device.
“It’s so much easier to use that sometimes my youngest daughter prepares my nebulizer for me when I’m on my way home,” said Ismail. “We call her our little family doctor because she has become so good at it.”
According to Dr. Ghrayeb, the donated medicine is particularly helpful for asthma patients who also have a heart condition, because it doesn’t cause side effects like heart palpitations. Patients like Ismail are able to dodge side effects and save time with this top-of-the-line medical donation.
With the highest population density in the world, there’s not much space for sports in Gaza. The village of Al Mosadar in Middle Gaza is no exception. The area’s only sports club was badly damaged, so kids played soccer in abandoned lots and trash-filled streets.
“Sports and games are the only refuge for youth in this village,” said Moaz Abu Saleem, director of the Mosadar Sports Club.
Ahmed El-Badeni agrees. “Soccer helps us let go of our stress and anger,” the 18-year-old said. “For an hour and half, we forget about our problems and all the things that keep our spirits low. For a short time, we are able to play together, learn from each other and just have fun.”
Gaza Sports Club: Before and After ANERA Rehabilitation
The new club now hosts tournaments and competitions, and teams use the grounds to practice. Moaz exclaimed, “With the new field, the club can accommodate 60 soccer teams. Before, most teams had no place to play.”
Management is also working to expand their operating hours to make the space available for everyone and to schedule specific times for girls to play.
Let the Games Begin
The match begins with a whistle. Players are upbeat and clustered across the soccer pitch. “This is our championship match,” said Ahmed, who is a fan of the champion Lionel Messi of Barcelona FC.
“For an hour and half, we forget about our problems and all the things that keep our spirits low,” says Ahmed.
The young players all know they have to work hard to endure and achieve their dreams. “A healthy mind needs a healthy body. I am in the 12th grade and I want to be a lawyer when I finish school. I love this new sports club,” said Ahmed as he performed his warm-up exercises. “It’s a great way to make new friends.”
Since the club reopened in early March 2016, youngsters of all ages come after school and on weekends to play soccer, table tennis or pool. Coaches also use sports to teach life skills, punctuality and sportsmanship.
“One day I’d like to play for a West Bank team,” said one enthused player. “But for now, the goal is to win this year’s national club title!”
With a population of over 600,000, the Hebron Governorate is the largest in Palestine. In the bustling capital city of Hebron, an ancient Old City reveals winding stone pathways and a souk that survives to this day. Hebron also holds significance in Judaisim, Christianity, and Islam as the burial place for Abraham and his family.
Agriculture is key for many residents of the area, where rolling hills are dotted with olive and fig groves. As far back as the 1980s, ANERA donated tractors and other heavy machinery to help farming cooperatives reclaim their land for crop production. Today, Hebron and its environs serve as an important Palestinian trade hub best known for grapes, pottery, and glassblowing.
However, many villages in southern Hebron are secluded, remote and cut off from modern amenities. The area’s Bedouin communities often face the worst conditions and lack basic necessities like clean water. ANERA’s main goals in southern Hebron are to resolve water and sanitation issues, support quality health care and develop the education sector.
ANERA has worked in many villages in the southern part of the Hebron district to provide water, health, agriculture and education services.
Clean Water for Hot, Dry Hebron
Southern Hebron has hot, dry weather, causing frequent water shortages that affect entire communities. Residents often are forced to buy water from tanker trucks in areas where water networks are either inefficient, unreliable, or non-existent. Lack of water also means that many families struggle to raise livestock and, in an area where many make a living on animal husbandry, this can have a devastating effect on the economy.
Al-Ramadin didn’t have a water network – a problem compounded by physical barriers like the separation wall. The wall boxes in the village’s 4,000 residents on three sides, and movement out of the remaining side is controlled by the Israeli military. The lack of a water network meant that villagers struggled to raise livestock and make a living. In 2006, ANERA constructed and renovated water cisterns and tanks, which now provide clean water in households and farms and protect a continued source of income.
In 2016, ANERA connected the small village of Imneizel to a water network for the first time!
Similarly, the village of Yatta had long been denied access to running water. In 2008, ANERA installed an entire water network and extended it to serve Yatta’s newest neighborhoods. In 2016, five rural villages in the Yatta area (Khallet Al Mayyeh, Um Lasafa, Al Deirat, Wadi Elma, and Um Elshoukhan) were connected to an existing reservoir through a new water network. For many families this is the first time they have had clean running water in their homes.
Also this year, ANERA installed nearly two miles of water networks and built a water tank with a booster pump in Imneizil, one of the poorest villages in the West Bank. This project made a big difference in the lives of the 450 people living in this semi-arid area, located right at the southern border of the West Bank in Area C. Similar projects have taken place in Dura, Ad Dahiriyah, Beit ‘Awwa and Al Burj.
ANERA constructs a sewage network in the Old City of Hebron.
With few sewage networks in Hebron, residents rely on cesspits for wastewater disposal. Cesspits tend to leak and infiltrate nearby cisterns, and are a major source of pollution and contamination to clean collected water. To combat this problem, ANERA enhanced a wastewater treatment plant in the village of Kharas, installing durable pipes that widened the reach of the sewage network to more homes.
In the village of Ad Dahiriyah, discharge from Hebron’s sewage network used to run openly through the town and surrounding neighborhoods. School children had to hop across these dirty streams of sewage on their way to school, and illness and pollution spread. Now there are three culverts in the area, constructed by ANERA. The culverts here and in Anab Al Kabir also prevent street flooding in the rainy winter season.
Expanding Access to Health Care
In the past, the 15,000 residents of Beit Awwa had only one medical clinic – it was old, run-down, and limited to only mother and child care. It also fell short of the minimum standards required by the Ministry of Health. In 2012, ANERA replaced the old medical clinic with a new, fully-equipped clinic, large enough to serve all members of the community. The new clinic has two general practitioner rooms, a pharmacy, laboratory, family-planning clinic, and mother and child care center.
In 2012, ANERA replaced the old and dilapidated clinic in Beit Awwa with a brand new, fully-equipped facility.
The water crisis also affected clinics and hospitals. In Ad Dahiriyah, Yatta, Ar Rihiya, Beit ‘Awwa, Beit Mirsim, As Simiya and Al Buweib, ANERA rehabilitated water cisterns and installed water tanks, pumps, filters and heaters, as well as window fixtures and toilet facilities. Now proper health care and good hygiene are possible thanks to clean water and sanitation facilities.
ANERA’s medical and relief program has also benefited the residents of southern Hebron by providing donated medication and supplies to local charitable partners.
Hebron School Upgrades Enhance Education
The village of Ar Rihiya suffers from a high rate of unemployment (60%) and health complications among children due to malnutrition and contaminated water. Schools, such as Ar Rihiya Secondary Girls’ School, suffered greatly from the water shortage.
To alleviate this problem, ANERA renovated the water and sanitation facilities of the Ar Rihiya school in 2009. Further work included the renovation of an existing drinking fountain and the installation of a new one, and school facilities like the kitchen and toilets were repainted and freshened up. The school, which houses 400 students and 30 teachers, serves a sizable portion of the village’s residents.
Children in Anab Al Kabir school enjoy learning in their renovated classroom!
The following year, ANERA added classrooms and renovated water and sanitation facilities in a coed school in neighboring ‘Anab Al Kabir. The school experienced a high drop-out rate, in part because students had to travel to another town to attend high school. The added classrooms enable students to continue on to high school in the same location, removing one barrier to education.
ANERA is currently in the process of adding an additional floor in Hatta’s co-ed elementary school so it can accommodate more students. As with ‘Anab Al Kabir, the school has a high dropout rate – especially among girls. In addition, handicap-accessible toilets will be added and the playground will be rehabilitated.
Through its early childhood development (ECD), ANERA has renovated, furnished and equipped seven preschools in southern Hebron and trained scores of teachers in child development and child-centered education through an intensive training program.
Al Ramadin Preschool: Before and After
Preschool renovations create bright, open learning spaces for children and include child-friendly toilet facilities and shaded outdoor playgrounds. Classrooms are filled with locally-made, ANERA-designed furniture, educational indoor and outdoor games and toys, as well as books. ECD’s Hayya Naqra, or “Let’s Read”, initiative has engaged hundreds of children and parents in Al Burj, Al Ramadin, Beit ‘Awwa, Idhna, Al Fawwar, Beit Mirsim, and ‘Anab Al Kabir. Children receive reading bags filled with with books, coloring books, colored pencils, and a handy pamphlet for parents on the importance of reading to their children.
Nearby in Al Majd, ANERA built and fully equipped a brand new preschool to reach the under-served children in the village. The brand new building is a testament to ANERA’s commitment to reaching the most vulnerable.
WATCH: Impoverished Village Near Hebron Welcomes New Preschool
The narrow alleys of the Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus are home to 30,000 residents, although the camp was originally intended to serve just 5,000 Palestinian refugees. The residents in Balata exist in a simple harmony despite the array of impediments they face in daily life. One of these residents is Fathieh, who is lying on a hospital bed at the Yazour Charitable Clinic, waiting to be checked by Dr. Majdi Hashah.
After being abandoned by her husband, 55 year-old Fathieh was left the responsibility of caring for her nine children on her own. Financial struggles and a son injured six separate times in encounters with the Israeli Army have only served to add to her stress. But Fathieh is determined to continue smiling, grateful in spite of the pain she must endure.
“Thank God for everything. We never realize the wisdom behind the pain until later on.”
Chronic Illness Soars in Balata Refugee Camp
Dr. Majdi Hashah does Fathieh’s check-up before prescribing her with the donated medicine.
Rampant unemployment and a level of food insecurity and poverty among the highest in the West Bank are just a few of the stresses that lead to chronic illnesses among residents in the camp. For five years, Fathieh has been suffering from hypertension, leading doctors to recommend several major operations to fix the problem. But surgeries are costly, and Fathieh’s financial situation meant she would continue having to rely on medical relief.
She struggles daily with stomach pains, which Dr. Hashah explained must be treated carefully due to her already poor stomach health and current medications.
Luckily, ANERA delivered the medication that Fathieh and many other patients suffering similar symptoms need. Over 6,000 bottles of Pantoprazole, donated by AmeriCares, are being prescribed free-of-charge to patients who have little money.
ANERA’s in-kind program allows clinics to give medicines to patients free of charge, which is a relief for both patients and doctors.
Fathieh is saving almost $70 because she got a three-month supply of Pantoprazole at no cost. She walks out of the clinic carrying a plastic bag with medicines for hypertension and cholesterol as well as aspirin and her bottle of Pantoprazole.
Somehow she keeps her sense of humor, despite decades of physical and emotional hardship in Balata Refugee Camp where she lives.
When we asked to take her picture, she laughed, “Of course! Now I can say that I have tried everything I ever wanted to try.”
Akkar in northern Lebanon has traditionally been one the country’s poorest regions. With poor public infrastructure and a lack of jobs, Akkar was among the least able to host refugees. Yet its proximity to the Syrian border has led to a massive influx in the region. Currently, about 34% of the region’s population is made up of refugees.
ANERA’s refugee education program in Lebanon — funded by UNICEF — brings together youth from all backgrounds for classes that build community and help young people gain the skills they need to take control of their futures. Courses in life skills, basic math and literacy, vocational training, and good hygiene practices combine to benefit young people’s lives in practical, immediate and tangible ways. The timing and subjects of classes are based on the everyday reality the students face.
These photos are from ANERA’s sessions in Bhannine, a town near Tripoli.
In Photos: Teens in Lebanon Learn Math, Literacy and Life Skills
In this English class, 16 students are studying hard to improve their skills. The class is comprised of Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese youth.
In this class, students are learning about personal health, the environment, water purification and waste sorting.
Asmahan is a Lebanese math teacher at the center in Bhannine. Her student says, "Asmahan makes the classes really fun and shows us easy ways to learn."
Abed is a 14-year-old Syrian refugee from Damascus. He's lived in Bhannine for four years and has had trouble going back to school. "What I learn here helps me keep up in school. My math skills are great now!" he says.
14-year-old Abed, a Syrian refugee, helps Hassan, who has been out of school for four years, with his classwork.
Hassan is a 15-year-old Syrian teen who has been in Bhannine for four years. He is not in formal schooling, and gets his education solely from these courses held by ANERA. "I come here to learn what I missed in school," he says.
Noor, a Lebanese teacher, uses interactive methods to teach English to her students in Bhannine.
Many teens in ANERA's refugee education program have been forced out of formal schooling. Some will not go back. This is the only education they will receive.