This year, the World Health Organization has named diabetes as the primary health concern for World Health Day on April 7th, 2016. Diabetes is a chronic non-communicable disease impacting millions of people, primarily in low- and middle-income countries. Diabetes and other chronic illnesses are prevalent in the places where ANERA works. ANERA programs address education and treatment of diabetes in refugee camps and poor communities in Palestine and Lebanon. 

In Lebanon, the Palestinian population is disproportionately affected by chronic illness. In fact, Palestinians are nearly twice as likely to have a chronic illness than the Lebanese population. Among the Palestinian refugee population world wide, UNRWA has determined that the prevalence of diabetes is “dangerously high.”

ANERA’s expert staff works with local organizations and communities to educate people about risk factors and provide treatment for those who need it. Learn more about how our health program works to #beatdiabetes in the videos below.

Health is a Right: Cities Changing Diabetes

ANERA’s health and in-kind manager, Dima Zayat, talks about the challenges to public health in Lebanon. She discusses the social, economic and environmental determinants that lead to chronic illness like diabetes in this video produced by Cities Changing Diabetes.

Combating Diabetes in Refugee Camps in Lebanon

Donations to ANERA’s medical relief program help deliver insulin and other vital medicines to Palestinian refugee camps and under-served areas in Lebanon. Meet one of the people whose life depends on a charitable clinic supported by medicine from ANERA.

 

When you have access to proper care, it’s easy to take dental health for granted. For many refugees in Lebanon camps and tent settlements, toothaches and infections have become a part of their new life. The cost of treatment is too high and clinics and hospitals are not accessible.

Aminah lives in a makeshift settlement in Miniara, in the north of Lebanon. She came to the country a year ago with her parents and her nine siblings to escape the Syrian war. Life is hard and reliable health care is hard to find. “Toothaches really hurt and sometimes I can’t sleep at night because of the pain,” says Aminah.

Aminah’s discomfort is an important immediate concern. But unaddressed dental problems early in life can also lead to the need for expensive and invasive treatments down the road. Moreover, poor oral health can affect the rest of the body, sometimes for years to come. Recent studies link gum infections and inflammation to diabetes and heart disease, among other chronic illnesses.

Syrian refugee Aminah gets dental health treatment in Lebanon camp.

This is 11-year-old Aminah (right). She says, “It is so great to be able to see a dentist!”

Confronting Challenges to Syrian Refugee Dental Health

In February, ANERA partnered with The Ajram Family Foundation to launch an innovative Syrian refugee dental health project that is reaching 750 children and their families in a settlement in the Akkar district. The project brings dentists to the camps for screenings and sends patients in need of treatment to a reputable clinic for free care. ANERA is simultaneously conducting a health education campaign that focuses on good oral hygiene practices, cavity prevention and early intervention.

Tent camp in Akkar where ANERA is implementing Syrian refugee dental health project.

This is the tent camp that Aminah and many others now call home. Lack of clean running water and the distance to health facilities make it hard for Syrian refugees to maintain their health.

One participating dentist, Abd el Rahman Mohammad, says most of the problems result from a lack of oral hygiene. Some people, he adds, even have to have their teeth taken out. “Children in this camp do not have access to clean drinking water and we know unclean water can cause cavities.”

Recent surveys in the area report that Syrian refugee children are four times less likely to seek dental services than their Lebanese host community.

ANERA Health Program Manager Dima Zayat says they simply can’t afford it. “Proper oral hygiene practices and a balanced diet are essential to maintaining healthy teeth but extreme poverty and lack of access to dental services multiply the risks of serious oral health issues.”

Through proper screening, treatment and awareness, and help with transportation , we can help Syrian refugees tackle this important, and preventable, health problem. It is one less worry in a long list.

Syrian refugee boys smiling

Happy, healthy smiles are what we want to see. Thanks to our donors for making our work possible!

The wonderful news that the Varkey Foundation’s prize for best teacher has been awarded to Palestinian elementary teacher Hanan Al-Hroub is an important reminder of just how critical education is for children facing so many challenges so early in their lives.

Childhood is meant to be a joyous experience, a time for fun and laughter. But a child’s reality is often robbed of those pleasures growing up in the over-crowded Askar refugee camp in Nablus, flooded streets of Beit Awwa in Hebron, or the rubble of destroyed homes in Gaza.

And yet, there is a place where young Palestinian children can leave that harsh world and find the comforting space to play and learn. For many, the classroom is an escape from the misery of their daily struggles and a chance to be just a child again.

For a brief time, they can forget the chronically sick parent, abusive family, over-burdened mother, murdered brother or jobless father. Sitting on the schools’ soft carpet, they forget about their thin mattress on the cold cement floor in a house or shelter in sore need of repair.

Palestine education: preschool teachers in Gaza

ANERA has trained scores of Palestinian preschool teachers, who are dedicated to giving children the opportunity to succeed.

Improving Palestine Education through Early Childhood Development

Under ANERA’s ambitious early childhood development program, or ECD for short, preschools have been renovated and equipped with colorful learning tools and toys in a safe and brightly colored environment that encourages creativity.

The program has trained scores of preschool teachers who are dedicated to broadening and inspiring young minds. The smiling welcome of a talented and committed teacher is like a warm embrace for children who must endure a cold, hard life.

Reading at El Shatee Preschool in Gaza, now a regular part of their education routine

Encouraging the love of reading and storytelling is one key component to ANERA’s early childhood development work.

Under the guidance of a skilled and caring teacher, Palestinian youngsters get the chance to laugh and play, grow and develop in a safe and nurturing environment. Since its founding in 1968, ANERA has put education as a top priority in building a solid foundation for the future of Palestinian society.

Building, expanding, furnishing and renovating schools, installing playgrounds, providing accessible, quality equipment, computers, games, books and educational materials are key elements of ANERA’s ECD program. Thanks to a generous donor community, ANERA has been able to train preschool teachers, guide parents, design and deliver comprehensive vocational training courses for youth, provide scholarships, and run summer camps, transforming the lives of young Palestinians in the Middle East.

The motivation is simple: We believe that giving children the skills and capacity for critical thinking and creativity, we can help prepare them to become leaders of their community and masters of their own futures.

Amjad preschool before and after

Students of Al Amjad preschool sit on the front steps of the new school ANERA built for them in 2015. Their head teacher, Boshra Hamad, was thrilled to be able to re-open the school for these kids.

In Gaza, many people lack regular access to clean water. According to UNOCHA, 1.3 million people in Gaza are in need of water and sanitation assistance. The Gaza water crisis makes cooking, cleaning, personal hygiene and caring for livestock a huge challenge.

With donations from people like you and our friends at Islamic Relief USA, ANERA is helping Gaza families access water by connecting them to updated networks. So far, we’ve connected 600 families to new networks under our current Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project. By the end of the project, 50,000 people will have better access to the clean water they need to survive.

In this video, Feryal El Dada explains how a new water connection in the El Zarqa neighborhood is helping her family get by.

WATCH: See how vital clean water is to families in Gaza

You can support water projects in Palestine. Donate today>>

Winter was harsh in Gaza, particularly for newborns and toddlers who don’t have the proper clothing to keep them warm and dry. Frequent power outages cut home heating, making it difficult for many Palestinian mothers to keep their children healthy and warm.

“Winter brings a lot of suffering to our community’s poor,” said Dr. Iman Saed as she held six month old baby Alaa. Regular infant check-ups are a feature of the Near East Council of Churches (NECC) clinic’s “Well Baby Program.” The health clinic provides services for Gaza mothers and children from infancy through age six to detect anemia and other ailments that need treatment.

Alaa gets his blood analyzed and his length and weight measured. Dr. Saed is pleased that the tests results are normal, but she detects nasal congestion, which is common for infants in Gaza winters. “Most children who come here with similar symptoms are dressed in light clothing that hardly protects them from the weather,” she said.

Thanks to a generous donation from AmeriCares, that reality is changing for many. ANERA has delivered hundreds of high quality winter jackets to children through the NECC clinic and three other health centers in Gaza – Ard El Insaan, Women’s Health Center, and Culture and Free Thoughts Society. The bright colored Patagonia jackets are well-made and provide much-needed warmth and protection from the freezing wind.

Alaa’s mother smiled as Dr. Iman handed her a prescription for his cold and then wrapped him in a bright green jacket. “It made my day to give the little ones colorful coats to make them smile and keep them warm.”

Gaza mothers struggle to keep children warm and healthy.

Mother Asmaa holds baby Obaida in their family home in Gaza. They use a wood stove to keep warm during winter.

A Home Visit for Baby Obaida

Gaza mothers get home visits from clinic nurses.

Nurse Siham sits with baby Obaida and his older sister in their new jackets.

Meanwhile, Nurse Siham is conducting a home visit for new mother Asmaa, and she has a surprise in hand. “When a mom safely delivers her baby, we visit her regularly to check on her health and examine the baby,” said Nurse Siham. “So I’m happy to be able to give them presents that are a help to their health too.”

The new mother Asmaa smiled with relief. “It is very difficult for me to cope with all our daily needs. My husband works hard from early morning till late in the night, but we barely eke out a living and can’t afford such good clothing.”

Asmaa lives with her husband and four children in a small house along with their extended family. So her family squeezes into one bedroom. She says they prepare food over a wood stove and there is no proper heating for the house. “So it is so nice to have warm clothes for my children.”

The children were delighted to show off their bright, colorful jackets to everyone around them. Nurse Siham added, “It relieves a financial burden for impoverished Gaza mothers who want to keep their children warm and healthy.”