An Update on our Community Environmental Health Project in 2022
Anera’s UNICEF-funded Empowered Communities in Action project in Lebanon organizes activities that promote healthy behaviors. Our outreach includes topics like protecting the environment, menstrual well-being, and COVID-19 prevention. We also distribute hygiene supplies through the project. And young people earn cash-for-work helping us to carry out the activities, including many women leaders.
Menstrual Health in the Palestinan Camps
Tackling a subject like menstrual health may seem straightforward; but in Lebanon openly discussing menstruation and bodily issues remains taboo within many conservative communities. It takes a lot of patience and negotiation to achieve tangible behavioral change.
Anera holds awareness sessions for young women and girls across the camps. We teach the physiology of menstruation and good practices for handling monthly cycles. We also distribute reusable pads and other helpful hygiene items.
Our sessions break down stigmas so that people feel comfortable asking questions and supporting each other. Mothers who attend report being better able to talk to their daughters about puberty and menstrual health. And participants more broadly report having changed their own behaviors to reflect their newfound knowledge.
We’ve run this program in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps, including Nahr El Bared, Burj El Barajneh, Mar Elias, Shatila, Rashidieh, Burj el Shemali, El Buss and Ein El Hilweh.
Solid Waste Management
An important part of hygiene promotion is taking better care of our environment. Anera’s solid waste management campaign the Palestinian camps has had a major impact on perceptions that many community members have about household waste.
They learned that they have some control over where their waste ends up. And that much of it isn’t really waste at all. It can be recycled and reused. Anera inspired nearly 500 families to begin sorting their waste at home. A number of those are even selling their sorted waste, which would have otherwise ended up in landfills. It’s not a lot of money, but every little bit of income counts for these cash-strapped families.
Also, 50 women are using the collected waste in upcycling activities that create jewelry, notebooks, baskets, keychains and so much more. Anera trains the women to make these creative and sellable pieces. They make money while protecting the environment. It’s a win-win.
Responding to COVID
The pandemic compelled us to add a component to our project to help address the new public health threat.
In 2020, we distributed hygiene supplies to 54,000+ households in Palestinian camps and gatherings across Lebanon. And last year our COVID-19 awareness sessions reached over 70,000 Palestinian community members across all the camps.
55% of Palestinian refugees who got vaccinated in Lebanon came through Anera’s awareness efforts.
Our outreach efforts paid off. At the start of our COVID-19 vaccine campaign in March 2021, registration and vaccination rates among Palestinian community members was extremely low, with only 11% of Palestinians 15 or registered for the vaccine, and less than 3% vaccinated. However, a year later, with the support of Americares, the Anera-led COVID-19 vaccination campaign contributed to increasing the number of Palestinians not just registered but actually vaccinated all the way up to over 85% by February 2022 of Palestinians aged 15+. We are extremely proud of the role that Anera played in this effort.
Community buy-in is vital to ensuring lasting, sustainable impact
Community participation is essential! We enlist the help of local partner organizations, youth volunteers, and women leaders and other community leaders, including healthcare workers, pharmacists, scouts groups, etc. A project like this can only succeed if community members are involved in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of activities. We also galvanize local leaders to get the word out in their communities and to activate people and keep them engaged.
In 2019, we launched a volunteer platform – still going strong – to coordinate with all of the volunteers that we have worked with across WASH projects in Lebanon. We call it Sahem, meaning “to participate.”
Looking ahead in 2022
This year we plan to expand these great activities even further. Anera will involve 575 young people in our cash-for-work programs while delivering 54,000 menstrual health and COVID-19 kits.
Because the threat of COVID-19 is still very real, we are working to reach 35,500 people with our messaging on prevention and access to services. And we will employ 75 young people to work on meaningful community betterment projects to help alleviate the hardships brought on by the pandemic.
The miraculous work Anera’s team in Gaza is carrying out every day is fueled by the tremendous outpouring of solidarity and backing by our community.
Thanks to the Anera community, we surpassed our GivingTuesday goal! While GivingTuesday is an important fundraising day for many, this year it was especially meaningful to Anera as the day coincided with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian…