Khan Younis is a major population center in Gaza, known for its produce markets and historical ruins
Khan Younis Governorate | محافظة خان يونس
Khan Younis takes its name from the Mamluk era in the 14th century when it became a stop on regional trade routes, which were dotted with khans — roadside stops where travelers could spend the night. The Barquq Castle, known locally as simply the Khan Younis Castle, was built in the Mamluk era and the surviving wall towering over the city streets continues to make an arresting first impression.
Situated in the southwest of Gaza, the modern city of Khan Younis is home to several hundred thousand people, making it the second largest urban area in the territory.
The Khan Younis Palestinian Refugee Camp is located within the governorate, just west of Khan Younis City. Notably, the famed Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf grew up in this refugee camp.
Anera’s work in the Khan Younis area began in earnest in the 1980s.
Throughout the 1980s, Anera implemented farm mechanization programs to support agriculture in Khan Younis. We helped farmers to upgrade their equipment and mechanize their farms with up-to-date, appropriate technology. Farm cooperatives like the Khan Younis Agricultural Cooperative Society, for instance, received tractors, bulldozers and other agricultural equipment from Anera. That way, member farmers could share the equipment that they otherwise could not have afforded individually. Anera’s assistance helped the cooperative members’ incomes rise.
At the Khan Younis Agricultural Marketing Cooperative in the late 1980s, Anera provided Gaza farmers with a new source of vegetable and fruit seedlings by contributing a grant to establish a modern seedling nursery on nearly an acre of land. As part of this work, Anera introduced modern irrigation techniques such as drip and sprinkler systems. The project saved farmers time, energy and money, and made seedlings available throughout the year.
Providing loans to farmers
In the 1990s, Anera set up a loan program that targeted small farmers through a partnership with the Bank of Palestine. The microfinance program was implemented in five West Bank governorates (Jenin, Tulkarem, Ramallah, Hebron and Qalqilya) and two in Gaza: Khan Younis and Beit Lahia. The loans helped farmers and farming cooperatives make investments in maintaining and modernizing their operations.
Anera has long worked to strengthen the efficiency and scope Palestinian farmers’ markets across Gaza and the West Bank. We have built wholesale fruit and vegetable markets, installed agricultural roads and provided funding for vehicles.
In the 1980s, Anera provided the Khan Younis Agricultural Marketing Cooperative with a grant to purchase a truck with the capacity to carry 40 tons of fruits and vegetables. The new vehicle made it much easier for the farmers of Khan Younis and Rafah to transport their products to market in both Gaza and the West Bank. The farmers would organize themselves at harvest time so that each farmer would have his own day to harvest and transport products using the truck.
In the early 2010s, Anera rehabilitated roads in Abasan Al Kabira in Khan Younis. We paved Abu Salah Road, Road Number 19, and Road #28. Roads #19 and #28 are main roads that connect densely populated areas with vital services such as hospitals, the Rafah Crossing to Egypt, a university and schools, as well as hard-to-reach agriculture lands. The roads needed rehabilitation because they were in very poor condition. Rainwater would accumulate on the roads and flood houses and farms. The road rehabilitation brought new life to the community and allowed area farmers to easily transport their produce to market.
In 2016, Anera built a new wholesale agricultural market at Al Ma’sara in the Abasan Al Kabira area, located in the eastern part of the Khan Younis Governorate. Abasan Al Kabira is famous for its rain-fed and irrigated agricultural products. Many of the residents here are unemployed and depend on agriculture as their only source of income. Abasan Al Kabira’s market, which opened originally in 1965, has long been a popular destination for buyers in the region. But five decades later, the market could no longer absorb the growing number of visitors and it was encroaching onto the main street. It also lacked parking and caused frequent traffic jams. The newly relocated market that Anera built is in a better, less crowded location in Al Ma’sara. Anera added loading and unloading zones, storage space, a parking lot, bathrooms (including one for people with special physical needs) and a guard room.
Following the 2014 assault on Gaza, residents suffered from food shortages. At the same time, farmers had not fully recovered full use of lands that were damaged when tanks uprooted fields and damaged wells. Farming families could not afford the equipment to recover and regrade the land. Anera’s land restoration programs revitalized farms in Khan Younis and returned them to vitality.
Anera worked with 150 Khan Younis farmers to prepare their land for planting, provide compost, install drip irrigation networks, plant saplings and train farmers on best agricultural practices. A year after the war, farmers’ fields were bountiful. In some cases, farmers did so well, they paid their good fortune forward by providing food packages for less fortunate families.
Abed Saleh Laham and his large extended family in Khan Younis participated in Anera’s Gaza Land Restoration project. With Anera’s support, Abed restored his lands destroyed in the war and can now bring in food and income for his family. He’s one of 150 farmers that Anera helped through the program.
Supporting sustainable agriculture through greenhouses
Undoubtedly, water, the sun and land are the most precious resources Palestinians have available to them. The land has provided sustenance to Palestinians for millennia, but the health of the soil in Palestine has suffered over the past several decades. The importance of water in Palestine is well known. Palestinians widely recognize the need to conserve and benefit from each drop, since it is so scarce. And, finally, the sun shines brightly most days and provides boundless amounts of energy.
Anera’s agriculture projects allow farming families to wisely use the resources available to them. In the 2010s and 2020s, Anera built scores of greenhouses with irrigation networks in Khan Younis. Greenhouses need about 60% less water than outdoor farms – thanks to less evaporation, drip irrigation methods, closer crop spacing, and shorter growing cycles. With small greenhouses, families can earn income and harvest fresh produce for themselves.
As part of Anera’s greenhouse work, our agronomists organized training for Khan Younis farmers to ensure that they could make the most of their new greenhouses and grow a variety of crops. Anera’s extensive training sessions included greenhouse maintenance, the safe use of pesticides, soil rejuvenation, and planting grafted seeds.
In 2020 and 2021, wind storms left greenhouses in Gaza in disrepair – at a time when crops were in maximum peril from over-exposure to the sun. Anera worked with local partners in five main agricultural hubs in Gaza, including Khan Younis. Across Gaza, we rehabilitated 302 household greenhouses and 57 acres of greenhouses rescuing the harvests from complete loss.
Anera began its work in the early 2020s to install rooftop gardens throughout Gaza. These small greenhouses sit atop roofs in crowded communities where families don’t have access to land. They use a wicking bed system that uses very little water or soil. Another resource-saving technique Anera introduced at the same time is attaching solar panels to irrigation systems that serve multiple farms.
Water has long been scarce in Gaza. However, access to clean water has worsened considerably in recent decades. Due in large part to the ruinous blockade imposed on Gaza since 2007, water and sanitation systems have very limited capacity to meet the needs of the public. Proper operation and maintenance of this infrastructure requires access to energy and parts that is frequently restricted. Further, the population of Gaza has continued to grow, straining an already overstretched coastal aquifer.
Khan Younis has not been spared from this situation, and repairing water and sanitation facilities in the governorate is an ongoing priority for Anera.
Beginning in the mid-2000s, Anera launched a series of upgrades, repairs and improvements to water infrastructure in Khan Younis that has continued with few interruptions to the present. Our improvements in water networks have increased the availability of clean and affordable water for households across the governorate.
In 2006, Anera renovated the water networks in Abasan Al Kabira and Abasan Al Jadida, serving thousands of people living in those areas. By the end of the project in 2007, Anera had replaced and installed water networks across the Khan Younis Governorate, helping more than 20,000 people access clean water and proper sewage disposal services. Khan Younis Governorate was one of the principal areas of focus of Anera’s Palestinian water infrastructure upgrades work during these years.
Then, in 2011 and 2012, Anera initiated the construction of Al Rahma Water Tank and pumping station in Gizan Abu Rashawan, a neighborhood in southwestern Khan Younis City. We completed the construction of a massive water reservoir and booster station to increase the water pressure in Khan Younis despite the enormous challenges imposed by the blockade. The new reservoir meant that residents would still have access to affordable water even when the frequent fuel shortages and electricity cuts disrupted normal municipal water services. Anera also installed two new main pipelines, along with wastewater networks, in the Khan Younis City neighborhoods of Ma’an, Jouret Al Lot, Majadla and Al Amal, and in the northern area of the Khan Younis Refugee Camp, improving water services for over 100,000 people living in these areas.
Anera’s construction of water infrastructure in Khan Younis continued in 2012 and 2013 as we upgraded and replaced water networks along Salah Al-Din Road, and wastewater networks in the Jamal Abdel Nasser and Al Kateeba neighborhoods of Khan Younis city, serving scores of thousands of residents in these areas.
Residents along Salah Al-Din Road had previously been getting their water through deteriorated pipes, causing water shortages for people living here. Some 60,000 residents in Jamal Abdel Nasser and Al Kateeba had not previously served by wastewater networks. Homes in these impoverished neighborhoods had to rely on cesspits, which often flooded and leaked into the streets, causing environmental pollution and health hazards, particularly for children. Anera installed new pipes and connected homes to municipal water and sanitation systems.
“Look at where we were and where we are now. Now we can clean up on a daily basis.”
— Fat’hiyeh, a local resident
In 2016, Anera continued its wastewater infrastructure work in the town of Bani Suhaila. “I’ve been living here for 35 years. I’ve gotten used to electricity outages,” Alaa shrugged. But what really bothered Alaa was the deteriorating health and living conditions caused by raw sewage and overflowing cesspits in his neighborhood.
Without a proper sewage system, the families in Bani Suhaila relied on cesspits at their homes. In the winter, heavy rains often cause the cesspits to overflow, filling streets and houses with raw sewage. “The sewage brought flies which would bite the children at night, causing them to itch. And the smell was awful,” Alaa said.
The new Anera-built sewage system has transformed life in Alaa’s neighborhood. While taking a sip of tea, she suddenly smiled. “It’s still dark, but the horrible sewage is gone. We can enjoy the light outside and the air coming through the windows.”
In 2017 Anera installed a new sanitation system for the Rosary Sisters’ School in Khan Younis. One of its buildings wasn’t connected to a sewage facility, meaning preschoolers in its first-floor classrooms had difficulty reaching bathrooms, especially during winter.
The school had grown over the years to host more than 1,000 students, teachers and other employees on a daily basis, far outstripping the capacity of the school’s septic tank. “It was terrible when the tank overflowed and we needed to call the manufacturer to come and fix it,” recalled the school’s principal, Sister Nabila.
In the same year, Anera installed a new sewage system for the community of Bani Suhaila. Shihab, a resident of the area, had long been troubled by the sanitation problem in the area. “My heart ached seeing children roll up their pants just to walk in the streets. It’s unhealthy for them,” he observes.
Shihab and his neighbors took it upon themselves to find a solution, installing barrels to collect leaking waste. But disposing of them regularly proved expensive. “We had to squeeze our budgets to save money just for waste disposal,” he recalls. Anera’s new sewage system has ended the neighborhood’s struggles with sewage.
Restoring Water Services After Conflict
The bombings and destruction caused by the periodic wars in Gaza in the last two decades have frequently left vital infrastructure in Khan Younis inoperable. Our staff has always been poised to get to work immediately following the cessation of hostilities to restore sewage networks and access to water.
The bombing and shelling of Gaza in the 2014 war, for example, damaged infrastructure and created water shortages across the territory. In response, Anera joined a convoy of water tanks to urgently supply areas without water and set up large-volume water tanks in convenient locations across Khan Younis and other areas of Gaza and made urgent water system repairs to war-damaged water and wastewater networks.
For instance, in the Al Zana neighborhood in Bani Suhaila, and in the town of Khoza’a, both in eastern Khan Younis Governorate, Anera repaired the war-damaged water networks, which now provides reasonable quantities of water to the areas, greatly improving the quality of life for some 21,000 residents that no longer needed to purchase expensive tankered water for all their household needs.
Health in Khan Younis
As elsewhere in Gaza, the ongoing blockade of Gaza has imposed enormous hardships on residents of Khan Younis and endangered their health and access to healthcare. Like in the rest of the territory, healthcare facilities and their patients in Khan Younis are facing chronic shortages of many medicines and some types of medical equipment.
With support from our donors, Anera’s medical aid program makes medicines available free of charge at the hospitals and clinics with which we partner in the Khan Younis Governorate. These medical shipments directly help address the ongoing shortage of critical medicines, helping to ensure that patients in Khan Younis have access to the treatments that they need.
Anera has also undertaken a number of rehabilitations of healthcare facilities in the governorate. In 2011, Anera completed full renovations of the main hospital building of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society’s Al Amal Hospital in Khan Younis. Al Amal Hospital was deteriorating and badly in need of upgrades. The hospital, central to the local healthcare system, provides vital health care services – like physical therapy for people with disabilities – to more than 8,000 patients each month.
Anera completely renovated the hospital, replacing deteriorated water and sanitation facilities, roof tiles and damaged ceilings; repairing cracked walls; repainting; and constructing a sun shade. We upgraded major sections of the hospital, including the radiology and emergency departments and out-patient clinic. And we established a new ambulance route to make access to the hospital quicker and easier. Anera’s upgrades doubled the hospital’s patient capacity, to 130 beds.
Anera donors have continued to support the hospital with medical aid and donations of medicines. Patients struggling to make ends meet in one of the world’s most depressed economies are therefore able to get medicine free-of-charge.
The Pulse of Life Medical Center in Khan Younis is another local partner of Anera’s medical aid program. Dar Alkitab Wasunna Association, which runs the clinic, sees vulnerable patients every day in need of treatments for everything from respiratory infections and malnourishment to asthma. Patients like 9-year-old Yaseen are often most affected in the winter months. When Yassen ends up in their emergency room with a respiratory infection making it difficult for him to breathe, the clinic was able to treat him with saline thanks to a generous donation of medical aid that Anera distributed to healthcare providers like this one.
Medical aid for clinics like the Pulse of Life Medical Center is vital in allowing these health centers to continue to supply essential medicines and care despite the blockade and artificially constricted economy.
In 2017, Anera also completed the rehabilitation of the ground floor of another Palestinian Red Crescent Society facility in Khan Younis: the Rehabilitation Center for Children with Disabilities.
There are only a few centers in all of Gaza that serve the needs of the relatively high number of people with disabilities. This center in Khan Younis is the only rehabilitation center in Gaza that provides support and services for people of all ages, including newborns, with disabilities. The ground floor houses vocational training, support and remedial service departments.
Deteriorated sewage pipes resulted in frequent malfunctions that forced its disabled clients and staff to use bathroom facilities outside the building. Moreover, three elevators were out of order, limiting the access of those with disabilities to complementary services offered on the upper floors of the center. Anera’s rehabilitation and remodeling work created a welcoming, hygienic and healthy space and made it much easier for the disabled to access the center and learn basic skills that can improve their lives. We also installed three new elevators. The upgrades allows the center to provide services to more people, with a capacity to serve 350 persons with disabilities (up 40% from a 250 person limit before the renovation).
Anera has also run public health campaigns in Khan Younis. In 2012, Anera implemented a project to combat intestinal parasite infections in the region. Anera worked with hundreds of children infected by parasites in Khan Younis, which had one of the highest rates of anemia (an indicator of possible parasitic infection) in Gaza according to Anera’s research.
We conducted screenings in a number of preschools for thousands of preschoolers in highly affected areas. Anera led a number of orientation meetings at preschools in Khan Younis to educate mothers about the importance of the project and for treatment and testing by introducing them to the Palestinian Red Crescent clinic. We hosted trainings by a physician for mothers on the treatment of parasites infection, causes, symptoms and complications, methods of prevention and de-worming and personal hygiene practices. And we distributed basic hygiene kits to infected children's families. The initiative had a measurable and significant impact in improving preschoolers’ health. The prevalence of parasite infections among preschoolers declined from 45% at the beginning of the second semester of the school year to 17% at the end of semester.
For years, Anera has supported the Central Blood Bank Society of Gaza, which has a location in Khan Younis. Established in 1979, this nongovernmental charitable organization donates blood units to the poor and sick. Before then, patients often had to purchase blood for their treatment at a high price and with no guarantee that proper collection protocols and screenings were conducted. During emergencies, the demand for blood bags increases up to eight times the average, forcing hospitals to rely on the blood bank as their only source of blood.
Over the years, Anera provides blood bags to these hospitals by properly storing them and delivering them safely and without tampering. In addition to on-the-ground support making essential deliveries, Anera has been a life-saver to the Society’s blood bank by improving the infrastructure to their buildings – expanding its facilities into a new building previously inoperable.
During the bombardments in 2009, the Bank provided blood when it wasn’t available in local hospitals and clinics. Due to inadequate facilities, the blood bank had to store a shipment from Jordan of blood and plasma in huge supermarket ice cream refrigerators. “It was the only option and it helped us save lives,” recalls the then director of the blood bank, Nahed Abu Asi.
Since that incident, Anera provided much-needed equipment to the blood bank, including refrigerators, refrigerated centrifuges, an electric sealer, chemistry analyzer, Eliza reader, CBC machine, water bath and microplate washer. With the donated equipment, the bank has increased its laboratory services and doubled its blood storage capacity. Other new equipment helps reduce the risk of contamination.
And in 2015, Anera provided the blood bank with a new generator to ensure the center had a reliable source of electricity to keep its refrigerators running and facilities operational.
“Anera saved us from the brink of collapse,” Ziyad Shaat, director of the blood bank, says. “When you save a unit of blood you save a life.”
High levels of stress and anxiety negatively affect the healthy growth and development of young people. Poverty and conflict in Khan Younis make it difficult for children to stay focused and maintain access to quality education. Run-down and overcrowded classrooms are not suited for learning and outdated materials make it difficult for students to keep up with their peers.
Anera is known for projects dedicated to rebuilding schools in this area. Our initiatives sponsor psychosocial activities that give children, who may be particularly vulnerable to the psychological effects of war, a chance to release their anxieties through fun, guided activities like drawing and dancing. Anera also works with caregivers to provide better support to children while also learning to cope with their own traumas.
Anera began its child scholarship program in 1979 and continued it for many decades. Anera partnered with carefully selected educational institutions serving poor and needy children and raised money for the schools through the program. Each year during its existence, Anera’s Child Scholarship program assisted hundreds of poor and disabled elementary and high school students in partner schools across Palestine, as well as in Lebanon and Jordan, to receive a quality education. The program furthered the education of orphans, refugees, impoverished, and physically or mentally impaired children between the ages of 3-17 by helping to cover the cost of tuition, books, school supplies, room and board, support for teachers and staff, classrooms, libraries, playgrounds and medical expenses.
In Khan Younis, Anera’s scholarship program began working with the Palestinian Women's Union’s kindergartens in 1999. That relationship continued into the final years of the scholarship program in the 2010s, as Anera’s child scholarship program continued implementation in Khan Younis preschools run by the Palestinian Women’s Union, educating more than 100 disadvantaged children in southern Gaza each year to build social and motor skills. These schools also participated in Anera’s Milk for Preschoolers program.
In 2003, Anera launched its Milk for Preschoolers program, which ran until 2011. We launched the program in response to a joint Anera and Johns Hopkins University study that found children in Gaza suffered from anemia, vitamin deficiencies, and malnutrition.
During the years it operated, the child nutrition program fed over 13,000 children annually in more than 120 preschools in Gaza. This figure represents a significant number of children under five years of age. The fortified snacks enriched the diets of these young children at the time when they are most vulnerable to the developmental consequences of malnutrition. Every school day each preschooler received a box of milk and a package of wafers, both fortified with vitamins and minerals formulated by nutritional experts.
In Khan Younis, the program included 21 preschools and reached 1,751 children annually.
We also included health education as a component of the nutrition program to ensure awareness about health, hygiene, and nutrition. Anera trained teachers at schools participating in the Milk for Preschoolers program, including dozens from Khan Younis, in interactive methods, such as puppet theaters and story-telling, to create lessons that emphasize good health habits.
Mothers of the children were also eager to learn how they can provide their families with healthier meals and teach their children to live healthier lives. In after-school sessions, mothers learned how to provide nutritious meals with the low-cost food available to them.
Over the years, Anera has upgraded a number of kindergartens and primary schools in Khan Younis. Many of these schools also participated in Anera’s childhood nutrition program.
Zahrat Rabee Kindergarten lacked any facilities for supplying drinking water. Without water storage at the school, each teacher brought a bottle of water to keep both themselves and their students hydrated throughout the day. After sustaining damage in the 2009 war in Gaza, the school, located in a remote area of Khan Younis, on Salah Al-Din Road, was completely unsuitable for children. After the fighting stopped, Anera spent five months restoring and improving the kindergarten facilities, ensuring that entrances, bathrooms, play areas, drinking water stations and sanitation facilities are returned to proper working condition and made suitable for the preschool’s needs.
Al Amal Kindergarten is the largest school in the town of Bani Suhaila. One of the building’s columns was cracked after the school was damaged during the 2009 Gaza War. “We feared it would collapse at any moment,” said Inaam, a teacher at Al Amal. In 2010, Anera fully repaired and renovated the school. Now, each classroom is now clean and brightly painted, whiteboards now reside in each classroom, the bathrooms are fixed and expanded, and we installed an additional drinking fountain in the playground.
In 2010, Anera also renovated Al Najah Kindergarten, a five-classroom school in Abasan Al Kabira, east of Khan Younis City. Anera upgraded the school's water and sanitation facilities, installed new windows, painted classrooms, and repaired the doors, improving the health and educational environment for the school’s approximately 100 students each year.
In the same year, Anera renovated Al Noor Al Qura'ni Kindergarten in Bani Suhaila, which serves some 140 students every year. Anera’s work included upgrades to the school's water and sanitation facilities, repairing plumbing fixtures, and installing a new kitchen worktop. Also in Bani Suhaila, Anera renovated the Um Al Qura Kindergarten, which serves approximately 109 students annually.
Anera also bolsters the reading programs in the preschools we partner with, equipping classrooms with child-appropriate furnishing and learning materials as well as training teachers in creative teaching techniques.
Early Childhood Development
In 2012, Anera began Right Start!, a program to improve early childhood development services across Palestine. Very few young children in Gaza and West Bank had access to early childhood development programs and services, with less than one third enrolled in preschools. The quality of existing preschools is woefully inadequate – buildings are often poorly constructed and ill-equipped for the care and educational needs of children. And most teachers are unqualified and poorly paid, with little access to resources and training opportunities that would enhance pedagogy in preschools.
Right Start! was designed to improve early childhood care, education and development for children aged 3–6 in remote and disadvantaged communities, including in Khan Younis by renovating and equipping schools; training teachers in modern teaching and learning practices, and supporting parents with suggested extra-curricular activities for children, including an innovative reading campaign: Hayya Naqra.
Our early childhood development programs in Al Najah and Ajyal El Tahreer kindergartens in Khan Younis, helped to ensure that young children in the area had access to enriching educational programs.
And in 2016, Anera, in partnership with Canaan Institute of Pedagogy, launched an innovative teacher training program that trained preschool teachers from all parts of Gaza, including Khan Younis. Once teachers completed the training, they received a professional diploma in preschool education, the first diploma available to most preschool teachers in Gaza.
One key educational strategy is that play has a huge educational impact on students both inside and outside the classroom. In the conservative areas of Gaza, it is uncommon to see teachers playing with children. Fatima, a preschool teacher from Haram Shareef preschool in Khan Younis who joined Anera’s teacher training, says, “when I discovered this, it changed the way I taught. I now use play to boost the child’s physical and psychological growth.”
By the mid 2010s, over a dozen kindergartens across Khan Younis were participating in Anera’s early childhood development program, including Ajial Al Tahrier, Ashbal Khoza’a, Dar Al Forqan, Um Al Qura, Woman Union (A), Women’s Union, Al Najah, Al Sindebad, Bra’em Al Nour, Ajial, Al Qarara, Al Amal, Amjad and Al Nour Al Quraani A.
In 2007 and 2008, Anera ran the Child Well-Being program. The initiative sought to reduce the impact of conflict on children through psychosocial programs across Palestine. By providing psychosocial activities for children in community centers, strengthening the capacity of social workers. and developing screening methods for an integrated referral system for psychosocial disorders, the program improved child well-being. The program also engaged the local community and community organizations. During the year, the program organized 1,259 activities in the Khan Younis area alone. It also offered crisis counseling for this in urgent distress.
The experiences of Waseem and Nuha, two of the children involved in the program from Khan Younis, show the impact child well-being interventions can have. When Waseem started with the program he smoked heavily and sold cigarettes to other children. The trainer held a session with him on how to handle problems. Through his continued participation in the program, Waseem eventually quit smoking and became more engaged at school. Meanwhile, 11-year-old Nuha was paying close attention to a session about bedwetting. The trainer noticed and earned her trust, working with her one-on-one. Within a few weeks, Nuha’s bedwetting stopped.
Most of the children said they gained increased self-confidence and trust, and felt more hopeful about the future. Amani, a ten year old from Khan Younis, initially said, “I feel bored of life and I do not want to participate in anything.” But after attending several workshops, her attitudes had shifted completely. She now felt that life is worth living and even beautiful and expressed joy.
Anera has also often hosted summer camps for children as another form of psychosocial support. During the summer of 2009, just months after the Gaza war that same year, children were looking to get outside. According to one volunteer, Gaza became “one huge summer camp,” with children gathering in the streets. To provide safe spaces for these children to play and socialize, Anera organized summer camps for over 1,000 children in seven areas around Gaza, including in Khan Younis. In association with the Cultural and Free Thought Association, these camps acted as both a sanctuary and a refuge to the harsh realities in Gaza.
While Anera supports education, we also invest in job creation and community infrastructure. Our programs improve livelihoods. We help women entrepreneurs start and build up small businesses to support their families. Sports programs and facilities offer youth from different backgrounds the chance to interact and learn teamwork. Trash clearing and recycling inspire volunteers to take control of a bad situation, turning it around for all their neighbors. Parks and playgrounds give families beautiful, safe places to come together and socialize.
In the 1980s, Anera supported a range of community service organizations and orphanages.
Parks, Playgrounds and Other Community Infrastructure
Anera builds public spaces and community buildings throughout Palestine to promote individual development while strengthening community bonds. Our work building community infrastructure in Khan Younis spans nearly four decades.
In the mid 1980s Anera supported the construction of a clean, modern slaughterhouse in Khan Younis to be run by the municipality as part of programming that focused on local consumption and agency. Despite the considerable upheaval of the First Intifada, particularly in Khan Younis, construction was completed by the late 1980s. For the first time, the city of 70,000 people had access to a slaughterhouse. Previously, animals had to be slaughtered in Gaza City or outside a formal slaughterhouse. The new facility increased revenue for the municipality, thus enhancing institutional self-sufficiency and the capacity to provide public services; and to stimulate local industry and agribusiness through the expansion of economic infrastructure.
More recently, in 2018 Anera completed construction of a brand new facility for the community center of the Charitable Future Society in Khan Younis which serves some 8,000 people. Previously, the organization had relied on rented spaces.
Anera has run programs in Khan Younis to promote opportunities to earn an income and establish livelihoods for three decades.
Beginning in 1995, Anera created the Gaza Women’s Loan Fund with the aim of helping low-income women launch small businesses to help sustain their families with small loans. Gaza’s high unemployment rates leave many men out of work, forcing the burden to fall on the women of the community to help their families survive. The program aimed to strengthen and enhance the role of Palestinian women in Palestinian society by providing loans for entrepreneurs to establish or expand small or income-generating projects. The program was based in Khan Younis City and targeted women with successful experience in managing income-generating projects across the Gaza Strip. Our local partner, the Culture and Free Thought Society, implemented the program. The fund provided small loans of between $1,000 and $3,000 to thousands of women in Gaza who would otherwise not have an opportunity to see their business ideas come to fruition.
That support continued in the new millennium, when Anera through our continued relationship with our local implementing partner, the Culture and Free Thought Association. Since Anera re-launched the program in 2011, we have provided almost $1.8 million dollars in total loans to thousands of women. An excellent repayment rate allowed the program to be sustainable to the point that, by the end of the decade, it no longer needed Anera’s support.
Seamstresses, grocers, farmers, artisans and many others have successfully run businesses that support their families and provide needed services to the community. The Gaza Women’s Loan Fund still continues to operate, independently, today.
Anera would build upon the experiences and lessons we learned from this program to later launch a thematically similar program, called Women Can, that has become our flagship women’s economic empowerment program in Palestine.
Emergency Relief in Khan Younis
Over the last 15 years, the relentless blockade cuts off Gaza residents from the outside world, at times even preventing the transportation of essential medicines. In the same span of time, residents have been made victim to four bombing campaigns that have left lives and livelihoods in ruins.
No person should suffer these hardships, especially not alone. Anera is devoted to assisting those struggling when they are most in need, lending them lasting assistance. When schools, hospitals and farms are damaged by bombs or natural disasters, Anera rebuilds and restores them. We also help families rebuild their livelihoods by supporting small businesses, providing vocational education and cash-for-work opportunities, and helping families grow their own foods.
Impacts of War
The most recent wars in Gaza occurred in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021. In the aftermath of each, Anera has been on-the-ground providing humanitarian assistance through hot food deliveries, repairing homes and businesses and delivering millions of dollars worth of essential medicines to those most vulnerable.
In the wake of the 2009 bombing in Gaza, Anera delivered shipments of food parcels to families in need. With help from the Bayader Society and other local partners, and through word-of-mouth and phone calls, 950 families in Khan Younis and the surrounding areas were able to pick up the much-needed parcels. Volunteers also risked their own lives to deliver parcels to residents’ homes where it was too dangerous for them to congregate outside.
“I go out despite the bombing. I keep thinking of people in need. We have to show them that they are not alone.”
— Mohammad Ghossein, Anera project officer
When people are forced to flee their homes, they often have little time to take much with them. Whole families often shelter in UNRWA schools and other facilities not built for the purpose and lacking basic hygiene supplies. So Anera supplies dignity kits to the displaced families, containing items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, towels, sanitary pads, spray, shampoo, underwear and soap.
After the devastation of the 2014 Gaza war, the need for winter clothing was even higher than normal in Gaza because so many families lost their homes with their belongings, including most of their clothes. “We couldn’t salvage anything from under the rubble of our destroyed home in Shejaiya,” Nabila, a mother desperate to find warm clothes for her four-year-old daughter. Ever since, Anera works to distribute clothing vouchers to these families in Khan Younis and nearby areas in Gaza.