Gaza: Tdh entrusts the health and good feeding of children to its local partner
Terre des hommes has been working to improve dietary conditions for children and expectant mothers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 1984. In 1997, the Foundation set up the local association Ard El Insan, which has progressively taken over the running of this project for the health and good diet of the children. In view of the success of the project, it is now time for Tdh to concentrate on other issues, the objective of its mission being to train local groups to know how to help their own people by themselves. Ard El Insan will be able to extend its work through the financial support of a Japanese organisation.
A context counter to children’s health
Confined to the Gaza Strip, 1.7 million Palestinians still suffer Israeli military operations every week, if not daily, two years after the end of the last conflict. The Israeli authorities continue to limit harshly the imports and exports, the free movement of people outside Gaza, as well as access to agricultural land and fishing grounds. Despite the measures taken to relax the blockade in June 2010, the humanitarian situation has remained very fragile.
In such a social and environmental context, the health of the population, and especially that of the children, has problems with nutrition, diarrhoea, respiratory infections and skin diseases. The amounts of certain kinds of food, particularly meat and fish, are not sufficient to feed the whole population in the Gaza Strip. Good food diets continue to deteriorate towards cheaper and less nutritional products: fruit, vegetables, meat and fish – rich in protein – cost too much. The children are thus exposed to infection and to wrong feeding during their fast growing period, and so to a higher risk of malnutrition.
Lead the Palestinians to fight for the health of their children
Terre des hommes has been present in Palestine for 40 years and started its project to aid the health and good diet of children in 1984. Fifteen years ago, Tdh created a local organisation, Ard El Insan, and trained and helped it to run activities of prevention and treatment of the malnutrition suffered by the youngsters. This work is always done in close collaboration with the communities so as to guarantee its sustainability and to progressively make the association and the Palestinians in Gaza autonomous and independent of international aid.
The aim is to treat sick children quickly, but also to limit the less acute after-effects of malnutrition, such as anaemia and rickets, by advocating a change in food habits and by circulating knowledge by the communities themselves. In the course of the past few years of the intervention, many women have been recognised as leaders in their community: through continuing training, they have become real examples for diet and child health. Alone in 2011, 52 ‘leader-mothers’, helped by their supervisors – community health agents – have been able to give advice on health, birth, breastfeeding and hygiene to nearly 18,000 parents, and are following-up the dietary condition of 3,300 children. They have also directed sick children to the appropriate health centres, and suggested cooking recipes adapted to the available resources and the feeding of children according to age. The teachers in nursery schools got the same training and are now capable of transmitting their knowledge to other members of the community and to collective structures. These same teachers now organise recreational activities so that the children, too, know how to take care of their good health, hygiene and nutrition.
The project also wants to bring about positive, sustainable changes, in spite of the daily problems linked to the context of Gaza: traditional difficulties such as with family fathers who are only just starting to accept advice from their wives, or the socio-economic difficulties which block the access to good-quality food; or the difficulties connected to the war that destroyed numerous public structures where meetings of women’s committees could have been organised.
Having trained and supported our local partner, Ard El Insan, Terre des hommes now reckons that this organisation is capable of carrying on with the project independently of the Foundation’s aid. The results of the interventions and the work of Ard El Insan are extremely positive and should now become autonomous. Since the beginning of 2012, Ard El Insan has been continuing this work for the health and good diet of the children, and is even starting to extend its project to other areas. Before retiring from this job, Tdh facilitated the integration of a new partner, ‘Japan International Volunteer Centre’, which will give financial support to the work of Ard El Insan.