The Bekaa governorate is nestled between mountain ranges in Syria and Lebanon. Often the peaks are capped with snow and the result is breathtakingly beautiful scenes from the verdant valley below.
Bekaa Governorate | مقاطعة البقاع
Roman ruins and charming little villages dot the landscape. The Bekaa Valley is considered to be Lebanon’s breadbasket. It’s home to fertile farmlands filled with vineyards, olive groves, fruit trees of all kinds, and fields of vegetables.
Bekaa hosts only one Palestinian refugee camp: Wavel, the smallest of the camps. Since the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, the Bekaa governorate has also become host to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, which has put a strain on its resources and infrastructure.
Anera began doing work in the Bekaa Governorate in 2006, helping small family-run inns to build up their businesses. In the early 2010s, our work intensified with the influx of Syrian refugees. The Anera office in Bekaa opened in 2016 to oversee Anera’s significant number of programs in the governorate, from informal education to solid waste management. Our team works in collaboration with grassroot organizations, local authorities and municipalities.
Education in Bekaa, Lebanon
In the mid-2010s, Anera partnered with 34 community organizations across Lebanon, including six in the Bekaa Governorate, to enroll 12,167 youths — Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese — into courses that improved their employability and chances of returning to school. Students learned skills in basic literacy, math, writing, and IT. As part of the program, we trained 262 tutors across Lebanon in methodologies for most effectively teaching those skills.
In the Bekaa Governorate alone, in the early 2020s, 1,276 youths graduated from Anera’s basic literacy and math courses. The majority of them transitioned into formal schooling and or onto vocational training or other non-formal education.
Anera’s back-to-school projects in 2017 and 2018 recruited and trained 529 youth workers to serve as outreach volunteers and participate in community mobilization during Lebanon’s national back-to-school campaigns both years. Our volunteers fanned out across the Bekaa, Akkar, North, Baalbek, South, Beirut and Mount Lebanon governorates. They succeeded in referring more than 19,000 out-of-school youth back into education programs, including non-formal learning opportunities. The majority (75%) of household visits took place in Palestinian camps and gatherings.
Across Lebanon Anera implements a market-driven vocational education program to provide youth with a package of technical and soft skills that help them get jobs. This competency-based training program is flexible and contextualized to the ever-changing crises that hit Lebanon. Anera focuses on in-demand skills and cash-for-work opportunities that lead to long-term employment. Our courses cover many subjects within the areas of construction, healthcare, IT, food production and agriculture, and sewing.
In 2010, Anera provided training to 13 vocational education teachers working out of seven Amel Association centers in the Bekaa, Beirut and the South governorate. Topics included non-formal teaching methodologies and lesson-planning skills. The Amel Association, a long-time Anera partner, provides quality services for everyone in Lebanon’s most marginalized communities in the areas of health, rural development, education and more.
In the early 2020s, Anera graduated 1,221 youths from our vocational training programs in the Bekaa Governorate alone. We work with a network of local partners to deliver excellent courses, scheduled at times that mesh with students’ complicated lives.
In the early 2020s, Anera provided a vocational agriculture course in the Bekaa, with our partner, Al Basira Charity. Al Basira provides educational and social support for blind and visually impaired children and youth. The course provided students with practical skills that allowed them to get work in the agriculture sector of Lebanon.
Anera mainstreams apprenticeships as an integral part of a successful vocational education program, helping to create a highly skilled workforce tailored to the specific needs of the Lebanese market. Students complement classroom instruction on theory and basic skills with hands-on experience at an actual workplace. In the early 2020s, Anera arranged apprenticeships and cash-for-work opportunities for 936 students in the Bekaa Governorate.
I love this field of work. I want to learn more about raising livestock. I hope to establish a private farm in Syria in the future.
Omar, a Syrian refugee and resident of the Bar Elias area. He dropped out of school in the sixth grade, but now, through Anera's vocational education program, he's an apprentice at Taanayel Farms. Read more.
Anera links youth to reputable businesses and prominent institutions, including hotels, restaurants, hospitals, factories, nonprofits, schools and government establishments. Anera’s Bekaa team, in the early 2020s, made it a particular ambition to approach the most well regarded employers in the area for apprentice opportunities. For example, they placed scores of students at Shams Anjar Restaurant, Chtoura Hospital, Daher Foods and Lakkis Farms.
In collaboration with the Makhzoumi Foundation, Anera is training assistant chefs as part of our vocational education program in Lebanon.
Cash-for-work, which promotes livelihood opportunities for vulnerable youth, has been a core component of Anera’s development programs since 2018. The main objective is to provide skillful youths with paid employment opportunities that last from one to three months. The aim is to facilitate young people’s entry into the job market while bridging the gap between labor supply and demand.
In response to the pandemic and the crashing Lebanese economy in the early 2020s, Anera pivoted our vocational programs to create immediate cash-for-work opportunities for youth. The program provided market-oriented trade skills while also helping vulnerable Lebanese confront the public health crisis. For instance, Anera ran three shifts in the Bekaa, paying 40 of our sewing students to produce 200,000 face masks for Lebanon schools. And, in Majdal Anjar and Qaraoun, students from Anera’s job skills training programs, under their teachers’ guidance and supervision, installed electrical appliances and plumbing at COVID isolation centers.
Anera has been delivering medical aid to the Middle East for well over 50 years. Anera’s knowledgeable staff coordinate shipments through every step of the journey, so that no materials are wasted and partners receive what they really need – not what just happens to be available. We support hundreds of health facilities throughout Lebanon. One example is Kibarouna, a Lebanese non-profit dedicated to improving healthcare for older adults. Anera supplies their Taanayel dispensary with medicines. Says Maryam Abdul Wahed, the center's administrator:
"We depend on our donors, especially during such a crisis where even huge private hospitals are complaining about a shortage of medications. A small charity like ourselves would have crumbled without it. Your support keeps us afloat, and quite literally saves the lives of those who otherwise would have to go without medicine."
With the economic collapse and enormous inflation in Lebanon, a considerable portion of the population is experiencing financial difficulties. Many people suffering from chronic diseases are forced to interrupt their medical treatment either because their medicines are out of stock or because they have become too expensive. In the early 2020s, Anera delivered a multi-year program to provide chronic medications to 50+ medical centers across Lebanon. We served 20 healthcare facilities in the Bekaa alone, including Nafela Medical Center in Taanayel, Kab Elias Medical Center, Sarouk Health Center in Saadnayel, Amel Association in Machghara, and Caritas in Zahle.
In the mid 2010s, Anera partnered with the Amel Association to empower 1,500 Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian youth in Beirut, South Lebanon, and the Bekaa with vocational training programs, language and computer courses, and life skills and health awareness sessions. Anera included toolkits on life skills and health education along with training for social workers who led the activities. The “Windows to Health” toolkit addressed issues like nutrition, drugs, reproductive health, and gender-based violence, among others.
In 2016, in the Syrian refugee camps of Bekaa, Anera trained 70 community volunteers and coordinated a distribution of 17,000 lice treatment kits along with lice awareness sessions for 6,262 families. Many Syrian refugees resided in informal and overcrowded tented settlements. The environment was a breeding ground for communicable diseases. Head lice was a particular problem – not only because of its health risks but because of the social stigma associated with it. Anera implemented a project in the Bekaa over a period of five months to improve families’ skills, attitudes, and knowledge about lice and to provide treatment. The rate of infestation among children was very high, at 78% of the children screened.
Combatting Period Poverty
In the early 2020s, to combat endemic period poverty among vulnerable communities like the Syrian refugee settlements in Lebanon, Anera and its partners distributed (reusable and disposable) pads, underwear, and other hygiene products. We also conducted awareness and education sessions.
A fuel shortage and price surges brought darkness to Lebanon in the early 2020s, including in refugee camps. Anera responded to the crisis by improving access to electricity at health, community and education centers that provide vital services for refugees and other vulnerable communities. Anera installed full solar panel systems to run whole facilities as well as partial systems to power specific needs. In the Bekaa, for instance, we equipped 12 healthcare facilities with solar panels, including the Kab Elias Primary Healthcare Center and the Ghiras El Kheir Medical Center in Majdal Anjar.
Anera partnered with the Al Kafa'at Foundation to deliver the DHIAFEE program from 2005 to 2008. The goal was to increase economic opportunities in rural and other small communities by improving the quality of cottage inns and family guest houses outside of Beirut. Participants received training in hotel management and learned how to better market and promote their inns in order to attract more tourists. In the Bekaa, Anera worked with Akl Hotel and Traboulsi Hotel in Zahle, Taanayel Ecolodge in Taanayel and Aitanit Guesthouse in Aitanit.
Anera’s vocational training work in the Bekaa is a major livelihood builder. See above for more information.
Solid Waste Management
Anera constructed two solid waste sorting facilities, built municipal capacity to recycle, and galvanized communities to participate by sorting their waste at home. Our work started in 2018, in Majdal Anjar and Mansoura in Bekaa, and Temnin El Foka in Baalbek. In 2019, we expanded to additional villages in Baalbek. And, in 2021, we reached an additional 14 municipalities in the Bekaa Valley.
Anera inaugurated the Majdal Anjar sorting facility in July 2019. It has been continuously operating since, generating about $36,284 annually. And, we inaugurated the Temnin El Foka sorting and composting facilities in the summer of 2020. These facilities diverted an estimated 340 tons of waste from being dumped in the environment.
Our solid waste management efforts in the Bekaa Valley created 300 livelihood opportunities by recruiting and training 300 youths, who reached out to 294,165 area residents through outreach events, awareness sessions, distribution of bins and program monitoring.
Reporting from theTemnin El Foka sorting facility.
Sports for Peace
In the mid 2010s, Anera offered sports activities to youth between the ages of 14-24 throughout Lebanon. Over 100 local organizations partnered with us to offer a variety of sports, including basketball, football, yoga, swimming and aerobics. As part of our work, we upgraded soccer fields at a school compound and a public area in the town of Bar Elias and renovated another field in Saadneyel. Some 9,300 area residents benefited from improvements we made. These sports activities are some of the few opportunities for refugees and the local population to engage with each other and strengthen communal bonds.
Creative Health Campaign
From 2007 to 2011, Anera’s Creative Health Campaign promoted simple, cost-effective, good health practices that people living in marginalized and poor communities could do to improve their health and foster self-reliance. Our topics were doable within societal constraints and included breastfeeding, nutrition for age two and under, good eating habits, exercise, cancer prevention and anti-smoking.
To promote these best practices, Anera built networks to foster cooperation between and among Palestinian and Lebanese nonprofits. The program organized community-based actions using creative approaches, such as women’s support groups, festive health events and interactive theater. We also produced an array of educational materials to use in capacity-building events, face-to-face education and community actions.
Anera helps struggling Lebanese and Syrian families in the Bekaa as they try to overcome the effect of Lebanon’s economic collapse. The Lebanese pound devaluation, the shortage of foreign currency, and the removal of governmental subsidies on imported food items and other necessities have, in recent years, combined to weaken the import-reliant nation. As a result, the prices keep going up just as families’ purchasing power declines.
In 2018, graduates of Anera’s cooking classes made 45,000 hot meals for vulnerable families across Lebanon, including in the Bekaa. In 2019 and again in 2021, Anera distributed food parcels to Syrians and Lebanese families. Rations included diverse food groups and culturally-appropriate food items that were nutritionally balanced.
In 2022, Anera distributed several rounds of food parcels to 12,301 disadvantaged Lebanese families in Rachaya, West Bekaa and Zahle. Parcels were filled with rice, chickpeas, bulgur, pasta, lentils, beans, canned tuna, cooking oil, and salt.
Right at the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020, the Anera team in the Bekaa Valley put together packages of essential materials for the prevention of the COVID-19 (containing alcohol, hand sanitizer, latex gloves and thermometers) and distributed them to the municipalities of Majdal Anjar, in Bekaa Governorate, as well as Temnin El Foka, Temnin El Tahta, Mansoura, Qsranaba, Bednayel in Baalbek Governorate.
In the summer of 2020, the Bekaa team distributed 3,500 face masks to the Majdal Anjar Municipality. We also delivered 500 masks to Tomooh, a charity for people with special needs. Again, students in our sewing vocational course at the Regeneration and Development Society made the masks.
In the elevated and mountainous parts of Lebanon, the winter months often bring intense cold. For Syrian refugees prohibited from building permanent housing and, increasingly, for the growing ranks of vulnerable Lebanese citizens and Palestinian refugees, the cold season is dangerous and expensive. Many families struggle to keep warm. In the late 2010s and early 2020s, Anera employed students from our sewing courses to make warm clothes for families. They made 7,400 winterization kits for families in Akkar and Bekaa, containing a tracksuit, jacket, hoodie, a 3-pack of socks and one reusable bag.