First Palestinian accredited as nurse in Lebanon
“Never, never, never give up,” reads the slogan on Mohammad Wehbe’s t-shirt. That sums up Mohammad’s approach to his dream of a career in nursing.
The 19-year old has lived in Nahr El Bared all his life, except for a few months after the 2007 conflict that torn apart the refugee camp.
Like many others, Mohammad and his siblings had to flee for a few months to neighboring Beddawi camp. The black traces on his house’s walls are not the only remnants of this time, Mohammad also lost a year of school: “This really put us all down: what is the point of studying when it only takes a blink for everything to disappear?”
Fortunately, Mohammad was able to resume his studies a year later. His tenacity and his grades did not go unnoticed at the nursing institute. His teachers recommended him for an Anera scholarship, funded Reach Out to Asia (ROTA), which partners with Anera on vocational education programs for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
Securing work prospects for Palestinian youth
Training institutions that are available in the camps often are not accredited because of legal restrictions in Lebanon. The lack of a recognized qualification impedes students’ professional opportunities because it prevents them from obtaining a legal work permit. That leaves young Palestinians with only limited prospects of informal jobs. As a result, only 37 percent of Palestinians of working age in the refugee camps is employed, mostly in menial jobs.
Three years ago, an amendment to Lebanon’s labor eased the restrictions for Palestinians in a number of professions, including nursing. The actual implementation of the labor law has been slow and many Palestinians are unaware of the new possibilities the legal amendments offer.
Anera is helping to change that reality. In collaboration with the Lebanese Order of Nurses and with ROTA’s financial support, Mohammad and 14 other students received scholarships to complete an accredited professional degree in nursing at Saidoun College in Tripoli.
Mohammad’s determination has paid off: out of the 10 students who interned at Mazlum Hospital in the northern city of Tripoli, the hospital’s head nurse offered him a job once he completed his degree.
A couple of weeks later, Mohammed passed his final exams (baccalaureat) with success, becoming the first graduate of the 15 nursing students supported by Anera.
“For us, Lebanon is our second country. Even though we love Palestine and we love our community, we also want to integrate in Lebanon and have a place in the society.” His mother beams with pride. “I did not study, neither did my late husband. I would love to see Mohammad get a PhD. Why not?”
Mohammad’s pioneering role
Following Mohammad’s graduation, Helen Samaha Nuwayhid, President of the Lebanese Nurses’ Order, invited him to her office in Beirut. She listened attentively as Mohammad recounted his life in the camps and his dream of a future in nursing.
Helen underscores the significance of Mohammad’s accreditation with the nursing syndicate. “It is mandatory for nurses in Lebanon to affiliate with the Nurses’ Order,” she explains, “But many nurses are not registered and work without any legal status, especially Palestinian nurses (because of the previous legal restrictions).Their precarious situation ultimately affects patients’ care.”
Empowering Palestinian nurses and protecting their rights, she says, is a key to ensuring quality and dependable work: “It is important to create the conditions for all Palestinian nurses to be accredited and obtain a legal status. Not only it is their right and will protect them from any abuse by their employer, but in the end, it will also benefit to the health care system as a whole.”
With his diploma and job offer in hand, Mohammad will be the first Palestinian to become a legally accredited nurse. He is registering with the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Health to obtain legal status as a nurse and will be affiliated with the Lebanese Nurses’ Order. Helen cautions that at process will take many months but adds, “Any difficulty Mohammad may meet on the way, we will resolve it together.”
Mohammad’s accreditation is a breakthrough for Palestinians hoping to integrate into the workforce in Lebanon.
Mohammad realizes he is a pioneer and a role model for Palestinian youth in the camps. And, he does not intend to stop after this first victory. In addition to his part time work as a nurse at Mazlum Hospital in Tripoli, he says he will study for an advanced technical degree and a BS in Nursing.
Anera’s project “Enhancing Non Formal Education” (ENFE) focuses on improving the education and employability of Palestinian youth in the camps of Nahr el-Bared and Beddawi. With funding in 2012 from our partner Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), Anera supported the training of more than 100 students in professions needed in the local employment market.