A Legacy of Palestinian Community Infrastructure
Travel the length and breadth of Palestine and you will see Anera-built infrastructure in communities from Jenin in the northern West Bank down to Rafah in southern Gaza. We have been building infrastructure in Palestine for nearly 50 years. In just the past 15 years alone, Anera has completed nearly 450 brick-and-mortar infrastructure projects, which reach and affect the lives of millions of Palestinians.
Anera’s Palestinian Community Infrastructure and Development (PCID) program, funded by USAID, was the largest community infrastructure program in the organization’s history. Anera’s PCID projects in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem began in March 2013 and continued through January 2019. The program was designed to address infrastructure needs in rural communities that face serious shortages in basic services.
PCID leaves a legacy of accomplishments that will endure for a long time, including increased access to water and sanitation and critically needed basic infrastructure like health facilities, schools and youth centers, parks, libraries and roads.
187,770 people now have improved access to water for household use and for drinking. 37,700 people now have piped water in their homes for the first time. And 2,000 students each year are benefiting from improved schools.
Anera encountered a number of significant challenges while undertaking PCID projects, including getting approvals from the relevant authorities for water projects, delays caused in bringing regular and “dual-use” materials into Gaza, and the very lengthy and complicated procedures for getting approval for projects in Area C.
Nonetheless, in six years Anera installed water networks and reservoirs and built or renovated schools, public parks and community centers for women, youth and people with disabilities. Anera completed 53 projects that benefited some 421,921 people in 54 rural and marginalized communities across East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. USAID provided an $72 million in funding. A further $6 million was obligated but never spent, due to premature termination of the program. As a result of new U.S. legislation, the end date for PCID projects was changed from December 31, 2019, to January 31, 2019. Our on-the-ground report “U.S. Funding Cuts to Palestine: The Impact on Programs and People” provides more detail on the circumstances.
Water & Sanitation (WASH)
Our primary objective with the PCID program was to increase the availability and affordability of water and sanitation infrastructure in disadvantaged Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza. Anera gave 187,770 people improved access to safe, reliable drinking water. We also connected some 39,700 Palestinians in 16 communities to water for the first time ever. To do so, Anera laid 145 miles of water pipes, constructed 10 reservoirs and installed 14 water networks in the West Bank and Gaza.
Making Water Available
The program makes 70,223 cubic meters of additional water available to local communities each year, enough to fill 28 Olympic swimming pools. Much of the water had previously been lost to due to leakage from old, deteriorated water networks. Villages that saw as much as 35 percent of their water lost have now seen those losses significantly reduced.
Furthermore, we were able to reduce household expenditures on water by two percent on average in the targeted communities, with one community seeing a nearly 13 percent reduction in water expenditures. These savings are significant for the targeted communities where most residents are low-income Palestinian families who could ill afford to spend their meagre monthly earnings on tankered water.
Connecting Palestinians to municipal water was key to reducing the monthly costs, as municipal water is only one-third of the price of tankered water.
Reports suggest that these communities have also witnessed a decrease in the number of illnesses, especially in young children, caused by procuring water from dubious sources, drinking from well water, or from receiving water pumped through deteriorated, rusted pipes. Our six drainage projects have contributed to increasing the safety of 90,000 Palestinians and their properties by channeling and discharging dangerous flood waters away from populated areas.
Sewage & Sanitation
Anera installed a sewage drainage system in the town of Habla in the West Bank. Helping some 3,150 people, the intervention entailed the laying two and a half miles of sewage pipes.
Cesspits would often overflow, especially with the heavy winter rains. Anera’s intervention has solved this problem, as sewage now flows into a sewage system to be discharged properly. It has also helped eliminate the risks of sewage leaking into water reservoirs and agricultural lands as well as reduced environmental health hazards that threatened the wellbeing of the community.
Surveys revealed that the percentage of income spent on cesspit pumping in Habla dropped from four percent (equivalent to what the average U.S. household spends on entertainment) down to half a percent.
According to our surveys, West Bank women also saved an average of two hours a day spent cleaning or fetching water after the implementation of these projects. Prior to the PCID project, for instance, the West Bank village of Imneizel had no water network. The women and children of the village used to carry buckets of water on their shoulders from local wells and catchment ponds. Since Anera’s intervention, women in Imneizel are saving three hours per day.
Under PCID, Anera renovated and expanded six schools and constructed new girls’ school. Schools now have larger classroom spaces and additional classrooms, and proper computer and science labs, libraries, multi-purpose halls, and physical education areas. Anera equipped all of them with new furniture and four with 124 desktop computers.
Anera’s USAID-funded school projects created 84 new classrooms and renovated 27 more, greatly improving the educational environment for 2,000 students annually. The number is likely to increase as the enrollment capacity of each school reaches its maximum.
We have seen large increases in the number of students enrolled in each targeted school, with an average increase of 46 percent enrollment (based on enrollment numbers from the 2018/2019 academic year). The greatest increases were in girls’ schools. In one girls’ school that Anera expanded, the number of students skyrocketed by 115 percent.
In the final year of the PCID program, Anera renovated an eighth school building and constructed the skeleton for one floor of a new school extension for the village of Jaba’a in Area C, near Hebron. The school expansion was sadly not completed due to the premature termination of USAID program. Anera is actively looking for funds to complete the project (learn more).
Anera constructed a health clinic in the isolated village of Al-Walajeh, located in Area C near Bethlehem. Before the clinic was built, the 2,500 residents were anxious that something as simple as a child’s cough might turn into something much worse. That’s because, in an emergency, the nearest clinic was five miles away in Beit Jala, and public transportation was sparse and irregular. A small mobile clinic was available for specified hours on certain days of the week, but it offered only limited health care. The new clinic has a welcoming, furnished waiting area, a mother and child care room, examination rooms, a pharmacy and a lab.
With USAID funds, Anera delivered 17 projects that provided community infrastructure to marginalized areas of the West Bank and Gaza. Rehabilitation centers for persons with disabilities, community centers for women and youth, a home for the elderly, parks, markets, and internal access roads all combine to provide 137,317 Palestinians with access to community facilities.
Serving the Needs of Disadvantaged Palestinians
Recognizing the need to create safe spaces for women and youth to gather, train, plan and socialize led Anera to include the construction or renovation of community facilities as part of the PCID program.
The four youth and community centers, three of which are in Gaza, provide 55,000 youth with safe spaces to gather, play sports, attend workshops, socialize, and learn together. The two parks in the West Bank help keep children off the streets, giving them and their families a safe place to socialize, train, keep fit, and play. Both parks have playground and fitness equipment, and furnished multi-purpose halls. The majority of those surveyed said they visited the park four or more times a week, spending three or more hours there each day. All of those surveyed said they felt safe in the parks.
Anera constructed a new women’s center in Dar Salah for the fledgling local women’s association, giving them an equipped and furnished facility in which to offer income-generating opportunities through food production, embroidery work, fitness classes, and childcare. The women have already started using the multi-purpose hall to offer workshops on women’s health, women and youth empowerment, parenting skills, healthy marriages, recycling, Tawjihi (general secondary exam) support classes, and much more. The 300-strong women’s association also serves the surrounding local communities.
Through PCID, Anera expanded and renovated the only elderly home in the Beit Jala area. With its new facilities, the home now has the capacity to offer shelter and improved care to 45 residents, housing them in much more comfortable living quarters that offer privacy and calm. It also has the space to offer activities for 50 day-residents.
Anera also constructed, in Gaza, the Right to Live Society, serving children with autism, and the rehabilitation floor of the PRCS Rehabilitation Society, and expanded the Jerusalem Princess Basma Center Children’s rehabilitation unit. All three projects enable the organizations to help larger numbers of persons with disabilities and offer better and more varied rehabilitation services in much healthier environments.
Post-Conflict Emergency Response
When Gaza was bombed for 51 days in 2014, Anera’s PCID team switched into emergency mode quickly, working with USAID to procure and distribute humanitarian assistance. Anera was able to arrange for 92 trucks to enter Gaza with relief supplies, distributing 286,000 bottles of water and 42,000 hygiene kits to 42,413 displaced families – almost 15 percent of the total population.
Anera also provided 4,600 gallons of desalinated water to 32,300 people at 83 UNRWA schools and local communities. To address the severe fuel shortages, Anera supplied diesel fuel to power desalination facilities, pump stations and other water and wastewater facilities that served some 1.5 million people.
Community Participation & Sustainability
Our PCID projects prioritized communities and their infrastructure needs based on community input, evaluations, and field assessments. Anera developed community outreach tools that allowed us to tailor each project to ensure we integrated into each project the needs of groups such as women, youth, the elderly, and persons with disabilities and sought their participation throughout.
Anera partnered with Women and Media Development (TAM), a Bethlehem-based non-profit, to develop a methodology that incorporated the needs of marginalized groups throughout the selection, design and implementation of projects and included elements such as gathering and reporting sex-disaggregated data (a wonky-sounding but critical tool in assessing gender impact) and encouragws the hiring of women engineers.
At the outset of the program, we conducted an informal survey asking women if they were ever invited to community meetings for infrastructure projects. The answer was always a resounding, “No!” The assumption was that women and other disadvantaged groups wouldn’t be interested in infrastructure projects. Anera sought to change that outlook.
Before Anera implemented any project, we convened introductory community meetings to discuss the community’s needs, explain the scope of work and designs, incorporate feedback, and conduct baseline surveys. Field visits and coordination meetings with residents and local government were ongoing for the duration of each project. When problems or concerns arose, Anera staff resolved them through dialogue with the community.
Following the completion of each project, Anera conducted an awareness campaign that included workshops and distribution of educational materials that carried messages of ownership, maintenance, conservation and inclusivity – for children and adults alike. The main purpose of the campaigns was to instill a sense of community ownership in a project and thereby ensure its sustainability and continued effectiveness. More than 5,700 people attended our public workshops, community meetings, and opening day events.
We are immensely proud of the legacy left by the PCID program, which will improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across Palestine, often in the most rural and marginalized communities, for many years to come.