Anera has deep roots and over 25 years of history in Deir Al Balah.
Deir Al Balah (دير البلح) governorate is located in central Gaza. A monastery was built there in the mid-fourth century AD, giving it its name which translates to Monastery of the Date Palm. The governorate is famous for its palm products like dates and jam. And Al Awda factory, a local favorite, has been manufacturing sweets there since 1977.
Located just south of Gaza City, the Deir Al Balah governorate has a population of just over 300,000. It contains four towns Deir Al Balah city, Al Zawayda, Musaddar, Wadi As Salqa and Mughraqa. And there are four refugee camps in Deir Al Balah: Bureij, Deir Al Balah, Maghazi and Nuseirat.
Agriculture in Deir Al Balah, Gaza
For most of its history, Deir Al Balah has been a fertile and prosperous place. Occupation, blockade and military incursions, however, have taken their toll in more recent times. Anera’s support of agriculture in Deir Al Balah has improved crop productivity, reliability and transportation to market.
Anera's land reclamation project began after the bombardment of Gaza in the summer of 2014. We worked with 21 families specifically in Deir Al Balah and Wadi As Salqa in response to the urgent needs of the farmers there. Anera restored 15 acres of destroyed or damaged fields, installed irrigation systems and planted vegetable and tree saplings.
"Life on the land isn’t just a choice we make. I think it is a passion we are born with." Sabra Abu Naseer has been a farmer for almost 40 years. Before the 2014 bombardments of Gaza, Sabra was tending to olive trees, fig trees, corn and other crops. But during the Israeli incursion, her land was bulldozed, along with other greenhouses in Deir al Balah. Anera leveled her land for planting and provided 65 olive tree saplings, along with an irrigation system. Sabra was back in business, pursuing her passion.
Over the course of the 2010s and into the 2020s, Anera has worked with families across Deir Al Balah governorate to turn small plots of land and, more recently, rooftops into productive little farms. Our experienced agronomists have worked with hundreds of families in Deir Al Balah, Wadi As Salqa and Az Zawayda to install greenhouses and irrigation systems, plant seedlings, and share knowledge on farming best practices. Anera provides thorough training on topics like soil preparation, protecting tomatoes from diseases and pests, fertilization, and rotating crops.
Anera’s greenhouse projects not only benefit the farming families. They also support a greenhouse factory in Deir Al Balah that employs 30 workers. Most of their business comes from organizations like Anera, as families cannot afford to order them. Says Rami Abu Sultan, managing director of the factory: “We feel very happy when we manufacture and install greenhouses in their gardens and see their smiles. It’s like helping our own family create a new source of income to survive these difficult times."
Getting Produce to Consumers
For years, many of the agricultural roads in Deir Al Balah were in terrible condition – mud-logged and pockmarked with holes and deep puddles, making it hard for trucks to come in and out. These difficulties meant delays in getting crops to market or even damage to the produce. In the 2010s, Anera rehabilitated many miles of agricultural roads in Musaddar and other parts of Deir Al Balah. Some 15,000 people’s lives improved as farmers were better able to transport their livestock and agricultural products.
Anera also built a wholesale produce market in Musaddar. The village has a high unemployment rate and residents depend heavily on agriculture as a source of income. Before Anera built their new market, farmers relied on a very small, deteriorating market space. The new wholesale market is on the main road and provides dozens of stalls and loading space for easy access and commerce.
Education in Deir Al Balah
Education has been a cornerstone of Anera’s work from the very beginning. Starting in the late 1990s, Anera provided grants for many years to the Maghazi Refugee Rehabilitation Center, a non-profit serving the needs of camp residents with rehabilitation services, early childhood development and non-formal education. Anera also gave several grants to the Bureij Boys School.
The first years of the 2000s included two Anera projects that equipped disadvantaged communities with computers. The first was the Deir Al Balah refugee camp. Anera provided the Deir Al Balah Rehabilitation Society with new computers, internet access and training for children and adults living in the camp, where mobility is limited. And in the Maghazi refugee camp, Anera equipped a computer training lab at the Maghazi Educational Enhancement Center, giving thousands of people – men, women, children, and people with handicaps – computer access where they could learn valuable skills to improve their prospects for a better future.
Musaddar Society for Rural Development was established in 2000 as a non-governmental organization that provides services to the residents of the village as well as the neighboring Maghazi village. It provides assistance to the residents by strengthening and supporting women’s roles through training, rehabilitation and educational programs, providing literacy courses, and educating young children. In the early 2000s, Anera added a floor to the building for activities of all sorts. We also expanded the ground-floor kindergarten, adding three classrooms and one administration room.
In the early to mid 2010s, Anera renovated 20 preschools in the Deir Al Balah governorate. In the early 2020s, we added reverse osmosis desalination systems to four schools, giving the children and surrounding communities access to clean, safe water at the tap. We also added solar panels to three schools, so they can keep the lights on during frequent power outages.
And, in the late 2010s and early 2020s, Anera built three new schools. One is the Al Hekayat Kindergarten at the beautiful Nawa Association Social Center. Nawa provides cultural, artistic and psychosocial programs for children, families and educators through activities that help preserve Palestinian culture and empower the country’s future generations. Prior to this project, Nawa was carrying out these activities from a small rented building, a burden on Nawa’s limited financial resources. Anera, in partnership with others, built a two-story building with landscaping and a safe playground. The ground floor houses a preschool and the upper floor the society’s administrative and cultural activities. The project serves the children of Deir Al Balah city and other children in other nearby areas that lack their services.
Another new school Anera built is a preschool in the Nuseirat refugee camp. The school serves some 150 preschoolers with spacious classrooms, lots of natural light, a fun and safe playground, and toys and games.
From 2021 to 2022, Anera constructed a new educational space in Al Zawayda at the Unlimited Friends Association, serving a community of about 28,000 Palestinians. The old rooms were rented and did not have a proper playground, classrooms or adequate space to accommodate the growing number of students. With a panoramic view of the landscape and trees on one side, the new center contains five classrooms, a play area, and an office space. The second floor hosts the multipurpose educational center for orphans and students that have dropped out of formal schooling, and additional space for curricular education, and special learning for autistic and students with disabilities, and additional office spaces.
Farms to Fosool Preschooler Breakfasts
Anera’s Farms to Fosool (F2F) project — fosool, or فـُصول, means classrooms — brings together the educational, agricultural, and health sectors of Gazan society. The project, which started in early 2020, is a sustainable, long-term community partnership between family farmers, working women and schools. Local farmers to provide fresh produce, ensuring them an income and outlet for their products. Then women at cooperatives prepare and package fresh breakfasts every day. In a territory with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, and where women face even more challenges to finding work, these jobs offer vital employment opportunities. And finally, F2F delivers the freshly prepared and nutritional meals to preschools across Gaza, reaching 1,608 children every morning. Six of the preschools are located in the Deir Al Balah Governorate.
Community Development, Deir Al Balah
In Gaza, where jobs are scarce, Anera supports women’s cooperatives, like one in the heart of the El Bureij refugee camp. We provided them with kitchen equipment like gas canisters, stoves, fridges and kitchen utensils. The women at the cooperative have reduced costs and have nearly tripled their monthly income.
Anera also supports women entrepreneurs throughout Gaza through our Women Can program. We provide equipment and training to help women grow or start their own businesses. Alaa is an example of one of these enterprising women. She opened a beauty salon in Deir Al Balah after years of working from her home.
"The opening day of the salon was the most beautiful day of my life. It was a dream that came true before my eyes."
– Alaa, Deir Al Balah refugee camp
Parks, Playgrounds and Recreational Facilities
Before the early 2010s, there was no public park in Al Musaddar Village. There was no outlet for
children and adults to relax and enjoy themselves. Anera built a new park to serve the residents of Musaddar, Wadi As Salqa, Deir Al Balah, Al Zawayda and Al Maghazi. The nicely landscaped green space boasts a fountain, a playground, benches, gazebos and picnic areas. When electricity goes out, people flock to the park to relax and get some relief from the burdens of Gaza living conditions.
Sanlou preschool is one of the oldest preschools in Deir Al Balah. It is located in a refugee camp where more than 1,000 children live. Since the camp lacks safe places for children to play, they spend most of their time in the street. In 2011, Anera installed a playground just in time for the summer camps Anera was sponsoring at the school.
In Musaddar, the only sports club was forced to close after it sustained severe damage during the 2014 war. Youth and children had to play soccer and other games in the streets. In 2016, Anera transformed the club from a rundown and abandoned place to a vibrant center of activity. Boys and girls come after school and on weekends to play soccer, table tennis and pool. Coaches use sports to help teach life skills, time value, punctuality and sports’ ethics. Club management expanded operating hours to make the space available for everyone and to allocate days and times convenient for female players.
Health and Relief in Deir Al Balah
Health and relief work have been the cornerstone of Anera’s work in Palestine. We have long-standing relationships with healthcare centers from Jenin to Rafah. Many of these facilities are tucked into small towns and villages and they serve as the main healthcare provider for area residents.
The Wounded Child Health Clinic in Wadi As Salqa is one such facility. The village is very near the Israeli wall and it is home to more than 6,000 people, most of whom rely on agriculture and livestock to make a living. A wife and husband started the clinic out of their home in 2003 and, since then, they have been a recipient of Anera medical aid shipments, including wheelchairs. Most recently, Anera installed solar panels on the clinic, as we did at the Fathi Arafat Clinic of the Palestine Red Crescent Society.
Al Bureij Women’s Health Center is a refuge for women in the Deir Al Balah governorate. Since 1995, the center has offered holistic services for women. Despite its modest size and location inside the Bureij refugee camp, the charitable medical center opens its doors to patients from all around Deir Al Balah, providing healthcare services to the most vulnerable and underserved in surrounding communities. In 2010, Anera made some renovations to the center, including installing new bathrooms, painting and tiling. The women’s center is also a recipient of medical donations, such as the kinds of multivitamins that are so critical to women’s healthcare.
Al Sawarha is a small village in the middle of Gaza, southwest of Al Nuseirat. Children in the community walk long distances to reach their schools due to the lack of transportation. Many had inadequate footwear or no shoes at all. For many years, Anera distributed TOMS Shoes across Gaza and, in 2019, we delivered new shoes to 150 preschoolers living in Sawarha.
From 2003 to 2011, Anera’s Milk for Preschoolers program distributed vitamin-fortified milk and biscuits to preschool children throughout Gaza. Anera reached preschoolers at 26 Deir Al Balah schools with these healthy snacks.
In 2004, the Deir Al Balah Rehabilitation Society created a physiotherapy unit in response to a high demand for services. Anera provided the specialized equipment they needed to provide appropriate care for people recovering from surgery, injuries, strokes and developmental disorders.
For decades, Anera has delivered donated medicines and healthcare supplies to trusted local health facilities in Deir Al Balah. One of our major recipient organizations in the governorate is the Palestine Red Crescent Society's Fathi Arafat Medical Center.
In the wake of the 2008-09 bombings, Anera distributed 11,000 hygiene packages to those living in temporary shelters and tent camps in northern and middle Gaza.
In 2014, during and after the 51-day bombardment of Gaza, Anera distributed more 10 million liters of tankered water to Al Musaddar and Al Maghazi. We also provided 7,000 liters of fuel to the Deir Al Balah water desalination plant, enough to keep it running for a week.
Anera delivers food aid in the form of parcels and vouchers in response to emergencies and during special times, like Ramadan. Hundreds of Deir Al Balah’s most vulnerable families are always included in these distributions.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
Anera’s WASH work in the Deir Al Balah Governorate has been extensive and widespread.
In the late 2010s and the 2020s, Anera installed 31 reverse osmosis systems throughout Gaza. These water desalination systems are small and powerful. They run dirty municipal water through several membranes until it is safe to drink – a big deal in a place where over 90% of the water is unsafe. Anera employs a local firm to put these systems together and we install them on healthcare facilities, schools, community centers, irrigation systems and wells. We have installed reverse osmosis systems at a water well in Al Moghraga, Al Bureij Preschool, Mais Al Reem Preschool in Deir Al Balah, Sanabil Preschool in Nuseirat, and the Red Crescent Fathi Arafat Clinic in Deir Al Balah.
In 2003, in Al Musaddar, 70% of households were receiving water from an antiquated system of private wells. Some homes had no access to water at all. Anera built a 80,000-gallon reservoir to serve a community of 5,500 people. Then, in 2007-2008, Anera extended the village water network so that all the households now have running water.
Al Maghazi and Wadi As-Salqa
The Israel–Gaza conflict in the summer of 2006 took place mainly in the middle area, damaging quite a bit of infrastructure. In the Maghazi camp, water pipes were damaged and out of commission. Anera by replacing the damaged network, bringing water back to the homes and farms of 2,000 Palestinian refugee families.
The water network in Wadi As-Salqa was damaged by the same military action in 2006. The main pipe and the network that carried water to the houses, even the water meters, were destroyed. Anera installed a completely new network with house connections that restored water services to 3,500 residents, and included the household connection.
“After [Anera's] project was finished,” said Abu Hossam from the Wounded Child Clinic,“the number of diarrhea and other water-borne diseases started to decrease significantly.”
In 2015, Anera installed a new water network serving 500 families in Mughraqa. And, in 2022, we repaired and improved the Mughraqa pumping station, adding solar panels to ensure reliable water access despite frequent power grid cuts, and increasing its pumping capacity from 10.5 gallons to 25 gallons a day per family. Now 12,555 nearby residents have direct access to water in their homes.
Deir Al Balah Refugee Camp
Homes in the Deir Al Balah Refugee Camp had poor wastewater network connections that caused contamination of the Mediterranean and the camp's groundwater. In the early 2020s, Anera installed a new wastewater network that prevents flooding and contamination, benefiting 2,500 residents.
In 2015, Anera installed a new, efficient sewage disposal system in Nuseirat, helping improve health and hygiene for 500 people. This project was one of several sanitation systems Anera installed in Maghazi, Deir El Balah, Wadi Salqa and Nuseirat. Before Anera’s interventions, families would excavate their own septic tanks and they would discharge their sewage into them. They were inadequate to the task, often overflowing into the streets during rains and seeping into the ground.