Water for Gaza families Mohanad smiling

Restoring water for Gaza families

February 18th, 2015 by ANERA

Mohanad Mousa couldn’t wait to tell his family what he had learned in his science class about water. The eight-year-old proudly repeated the facts: rain is a source of water and water brings goodness and blessings to the earth. But that blessing is elusive for Mohanad and his family who have been without running water at home in Gaza for many years. Mohanad’s mother Fatima explains, “We live far away from any water connections. Our community has been left behind and forgotten.” She says the families have filed complaints, but nothing has been done.

The community in Beit Hanoun where Mohanad and his family live suffers sharp decreases in the supply of water at home, especially during the summer when the need for water is high. The family purchases water in town when they can, but this greatly strains the family budget.

ANERA has improved water connections to 12,000 households in war-ravaged areas of Gaza, generating a reliable source of water for cooking, showering and drinking.

Fatima’s husband collects plastic for recycling, but that doesn’t bring much revenue. “A big chunk of our limited income goes to purchasing water,” Fatima says. “We pay 15 shekels ($3.50) to fill our 1000-liter storage tank,” she explains. Fatima and her family use that water for domestic use, like showering and cleaning, and for drinking. A full tank of water usually lasts for about three days. “I try to be as prudent as possible with the water, but I have children and they need it,” says Fatima.

Living in an area without a reliable source of water has been very difficult for Fatima. She remembers the days when she and her husband stayed up until 3 a.m. hoping to get precious water when it sporadically flowed from the tap. “We used to have water for two hours a day, but mostly late in the night. If we were lucky, we would wake up in time to fill our water tank,” she recalls.

Fatima and her family were thrilled when they heard the news that ANERA would be connecting their community to a steady flow of water.

The water project, funded by Islamic Relief USA, aims to restore water supply lines to homes and communities that were damaged in the recent conflict. In total, 12,000 families—in Beit Hanoun, Al Shujaeya, Al Bureij, Al Nussierat, Deir Al Balah, Bani Suhiela and Rafah Al Shoka—will be connected to water.

Now when Fatima looks up at her full water tank, her eyes shine with delight and relief. It is one less worry for her family. “The water situation is so much better now,” she says. “It rarely cuts off. Our water tank is filled most of the time and we are saving money.”

Water for Gaza families Mohanad fills bottle

Now that Mohanad’s home is connected to a water network, he can fill his water bottle any time from the tank.

Water for Gaza homes is a blessing

“Water is life and blessings. No words can describe the excitement of having water in my house!” exclaims Sabah Shabat, a grandmother of five, as she washes her dishes.

Water for Gaza grandmother and her grand kids Beit Hanoun

Sabah and her grandchildren are very grateful for restored access to water in their home.

But that wasn’t the case during the 2014 Gaza war, when the water trucks weren’t able to reach the neighborhood because of the intensive bombings. “My husband and sons took the empty tanks on donkey carts to the center of Beit Hanoun to fill them with water. Each time they left, I had constant worries until they returned. But we had no other options,” she says.

Sabah has lived in the same area for five years and feels the difference the new water network has made. “Water is essential to our lives,” she says, surrounded by her young grandchildren.

The delight and relief shared by Fatima and Sabah are reflected in other families in the neighborhood who say they are counting their blessings with the new water connections that make their life a bit easier in otherwise difficult conditions. 

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Water for Gaza blond girl with cup Beit Hanoun
Water for Gaza families grandmother in Beit Hanoun
Water for Gaza Mohanad family Beit Hanoun
Water for Gaza girl smiling washing hands

Sabah's granddaughter enjoys a cup of water. She's happy to have clean running water in her home.

Sabah, grandmother of five young children, says water is a blessing.

Fatima, Mohanad, and the rest of their family now have life-saving access to water in their home.

Before ANERA's recent water project, children like Sabah's granddaughter couldn't even wash their hands in the bathroom sink.

Water for Gaza blond girl with cup Beit Hanoun thumbnail
Water for Gaza families grandmother in Beit Hanoun thumbnail
Water for Gaza Mohanad family Beit Hanoun thumbnail
Water for Gaza girl smiling washing hands thumbnail

Imagine waking up in the morning to find your limbs tied down tightly to the bed with heavy chains. This is how 51-year-old rheumatoid arthritis patient Hana Abu-Mahdiyeh feels every morning.

“The most difficult part of my day is getting out of bed, and that takes a couple of hours,” explains Hana. “Once I am out, I do certain exercises to loosen up my joints and muscles. Once I am on the move, it gradually gets easier.”

The charitable clinic in the heart of Hebron that Hana regularly visits for routine check-ups has recently received a generous medical supply donation that will ease some of her daily suffering. The International Health Partners (IHP) donation delivered by ANERA contains two-compression bandage kits for the foot and ankle, which Hana, among many other patients, has found to be quite helpful.

After performing a general check-up on her, Dr. Wael Al-Rajabi told Hana about the newly donated bandages and carefully wrapped one around her foot and ankle. He explained that two layers provide a soft, yet firm support.

“Hana had an operation around three years ago to repair a joint deformity in her left foot caused by her illness,” said Dr. Rajabi. He explained that deformity and the formation of nodules are natural effects of the progression of the illness, which cannot be permanently repaired. Hana still suffers from great pain in that same foot, which she treats with medication and the regular use of bandages.

“Although we cannot stop the progression of the illness, we can always try to ease her pain and aid her through the tasks of her daily life,” said Dr. Rajabi.

medical donation bandages hebron clinic

Dr. Rajabi wraps Hana’s foot in a two-layered compression bandage.

Relying on the kindness of others to survive

Rheumatoid arthritis has accompanied Hana through every second of her life since she was only 17 years old. She used to be quite active and very much into knitting, which, for some years, was her sole source of income.

“I used to be quite skilled at knitting,” she reminisced. “But after my illness, my role was restricted to supervising other women at a small clothing factory in Hebron. Soon enough though, I could no longer remain in my job, or any other job.”

Eight years ago, Hana lost her husband. She currently relies on charity to get by. She and her sister live with her brother and his family. Unfortunately, rheumatoid arthritis is not her only adversity—she also suffers from diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure. Hana relies on the free in-kind supplies at the charitable clinic, and it is vital to her survival. Like most of the residents Hebron’s Old City, she has only a few places to turn to for treatment, free of charge.

“The medical donations coming in through ANERA make up a huge part of our supply, and they all go to impoverished people who cannot afford them otherwise,” Dr Rajabi stated. “For people like Hana, this place is an anchor, and your donations, no matter how big or small, keep us afloat.”

When Dr. Ashraf Qdeimat first laid eyes on 36-year-old Shireen Al-Baw, he was in awe at the sight and size of his patient’s infected burn wounds.

“Her frontal upper body was covered with puss and foul smelling discharge. That’s how severe the infection was,” explained Dr. Qdeimat.

Shireen had been preparing traditional flatbread for her eight children and husband using a clay oven in her West Bank home when she had her first ever epileptic seizure. As she lost consciousness, she fell on the scorching lime stones. A few seconds later, she woke up to the excruciating pain of her flesh burning.

After being treated briefly at a nearby hospital, Shireen’s family encouraged her to try “traditional” Palestinian treatment methods. Although these holistic, natural treatments are deemed effective by some, Shireen’s case needed immediate medical intervention.

Shireen receives treatment at West Bank charitable clinic

medical aid flamazine cream

Dr. Qdeimat puts Flamazine cream on Shireen’s arm to treat the burn.

Luckily for Shireen, the charitable clinic where she sought treatment receives high-quality medical donations from aid organizations, such as ANERA. Recently, ANERA delivered a vital shipment donated by International Health Partners (IHP) containing tubes of burn ointment, gauze rolls, sterile dressings and double-layered bandages.

Although the tragic incident happened several months ago, Shireen still needs regular treatment at the clinic under the supervision of Dr. Qdeimat. She is quite grateful for the attention she has received throughout her recovery, and the medical aid to Palestine that has helped her, including IHP’s most recent donation.

Dr. Qdeimat is also grateful for the crucial medical supplies. “Since this new donation was received, we have witnessed eight burn cases, mainly among children,” said the doctor. He attributes this to the winter season and the reliability on heating sources that could be hazardous.

Today, with some help from the donated cream, gauze and dressings, Shireen knows that the worst is behind her. Her wounds are healing adequately, and she’s looking forward to making a near full recovery.

medical aid palestine shireen and doctor

Under the care of Dr. Qdeimat, and with help from donated medicines, Shireen’s burn wounds are healing.

Women waited in the hallway of the Near Eastern Council of Churches (NECC) clinic, small children and infants in their laps, to see the doctor and check on the well-being of their children. Three-year-old Kareem Zerbitli, who lives in the war-ravaged Gaza community of Al Shujaeya, waited with his mother.

When he first visited NECC clinic, he wasn’t doing well. “He was under weight and height for his age, exhibited fatigue, lacked appetite and had a very pale face,” said his mother Haneen. Kareem is a twin and weighed only 2 lbs, 3 oz (1 kg) at birth. “He needed a lot of care and attention. I registered him at the clinic for monthly health checkups,” she added.

And yet, Kareem’s weight and height showed no significant progress. He was showing clear symptoms of stunting and malnutrition. “His diet consists of foods meant only to fill the stomach, that are poor in essential micro-nutrients. He basically eats bread and tea as his main meal every day,” said Dr. Iman Saed. “We tried to help him by providing his mother with fortified milk for the first few months of his, life but that was not enough,” she explained. “The inability of the majority of Gaza families to purchase basic food items has magnified this health problem. Pregnant women aren’t getting enough healthy foods either, which in many cases leads to a malnourished baby.”

Kareem’s poor health status was aggravated by the 2014 Gaza war. His neighborhood was hit hard and the family had to flee to a temporary shelter where they were provided with only sporadic food assistance.

Haneen and Kareem in streets Al Shujaeya.

Haneen and Kareem in the streets of Al Shujaeya.

Free vitamins for Malnourished Gaza Children

Gaza children get multivitamins Kareem and Haneen

Kareem sits in his mothers lap at the clinic after receiving multivitamins.

When Kareem’s mother arrived to the clinic for their monthly visit, she was elated to learn that multivitamins from Vitamin Angels were being made available for her child free of charge.  “Vitamins are expensive and my husband has intermittent work that is barely enough for basic living costs. He doesn’t even make enough in a day’s work to cover the cost of a bottle of vitamins,” explained Haneen.

ANERA delivered large quantities of vitamins to 12 charitable hospitals and clinics in Gaza.

Kareem has been put on a daily vitamin regimen. “I crunch it and dissolve it into his food. I give it to my child every day,” Haneen said.

Within just a few months, Kareem has already shown signs of recovery. “He is active and eating well,” said his mother with a smile. The doctor says as long as Kareem continues to take the vitamins, his health will progress until he reaches a complete recovery.

Undernourishment is rife in Gaza. Rising poverty, unemployment and food insecurity — compounded by 51 days of war in the summer of 2014 — have increased the threat of child malnutrition. According to a study by the NECC, 11% of children under the age of five years are malnourished and 43.9% are anemic. Most children lack enough vitamins and minerals in their diet, often resulting in devastating health consequences, which becomes a major problem in Gaza where many people are too poor to afford healthy food.

Thanks to a partnership with AmeriCares and donations from Vitamin Angels, ANERA is helping to combat the problem one child at a time.



Book distribution Lebanon camps two kids read

Children learn joy of reading in Lebanon camps

February 11th, 2015 by ANERA

Three-year-old Hoda sits on the floor totally engrossed in the large colorful book in her lap. She and her 80 classmates at Najdeh preschool in Ein El Helweh refugee camp had just received a supply of new books, delivered by ANERA.  Hoda couldn’t wait to ask her teacher about all the new things she saw in the book: “Is the blue whale big as big as our kindergarten?”

In several Palestinian refugee camps across Lebanon, ANERA has delivered 13,744 books, generously donated by International Book Bank, to educational centers. More than 700 children, aged three to five, will enjoy reading new, colorful books from the distribution. “These books will enhance interactive learning and teaching through visuals and storytelling and make learning easy and fun,” says Dima Zayat, ANERA’s in-kind program manager.

book distribution lebanon camps girl reads

Hoda, a curious and bright three year old, is absorbed in her new book.

In Lebanon camps books enhance imagination

book distribution lebanon camps class holds books

The preschool students in Ein El Helwe excitedly hold up new books that ANERA delivered.

The economically under-developed Lebanon camps are accustomed to overcrowded and difficult living conditions and a chronic shortage of teaching materials, books and equipment for children.

“A book promotes children’s literacy, culture and education while entertaining them,” says Nisrine Makkouk, ANERA’s education program manager. “Reading a book is not only an educational tool for kids, but also enhances their imagination and builds their personality through interactive learning.”

The shipment filled the libraries in the camp education centers with a wide variety of colorful books on topics ranging from personal hygiene to the wonders of nature. “At the preschool, we teach the children different themes and stories, from the importance of hygiene or discovering animals and the human body, to food and nutrition. These books cover all the themes and more,” explains Zinat Farhoud, an instructor at Najdeh kindergarten in Ein El Helweh camp.

Book distribution lebanon camps class reads

The class is captivated by the story their teacher reads to them.

Joy of reading knows no boundaries

book distribution lebanon camps mama reads

Mothers learn to read and promote literacy to their children at the “Mama Reads” event in Burj El Barajneh camp.

To promote the new books and the value of reading at any age, ANERA organized an event entitled “Mama Reads” at the Women’s Program Center, in Burj El Barajneh camp in Beirut. More than 15 women gathered to learn a bit of English and how to use books as a tool to encourage learning in the family.

Nicolas Boke, ANERA’s education consultant, facilitated the reading session. “One can immediately recognize the effort these women are putting into reading in English, and as education experts we need to show them support.”

One middle-aged mother who attended the session was full of amazement.  Holding her infant daughter in one arm she diligently took notes with her free hand. She smiled with pride, “I never thought, I could still have the energy to learn at my age.”