Strong as iron: UNRWA tackles anaemia in Lebanon

01 March 2011

1 March 2011
Lebanon

A new UNRWA campaign is tackling the high rate of iron deficiency (anaemia) among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, where one-in-four pregnant Palestinian women suffer from the disorder, as do a high number of children under the age of three. In Burj Shemali camp near Tyre, for example, an UNRWA survey found some 80 per cent of children under three to be anaemic.

The As Strong as Iron campaign targeted Palestinian women aged between 13 and 46, with activities including counselling from doctors about the disorder, and awareness sessions and group discussions on existing cures and prevention.

Outreach workers, in large part community members themselves, also ran cooking sessions to highlight the role of nutrition, and festivities in the camps to engage the refugee community.

Cooking tips

An event in Ein el-Hillweh camp at the end of January focused on getting the message across through games and songs. Health teams also prepared a buffet of food particularly rich in iron and gave women cooking tips to make sure they could take the messages home.

Iman Othman, a woman from the camp, explained: “It has helped me realise that there are a number of vitamins all around us, in the vegetables and fruits, which are easy to take, but which I never realised were so important.”

Community outreach staff used their local knowledge to address specific needs in their area. For instance, UNRWA nurses in Nahr el-Bared coordinated with the Agency’s schools to prepare awareness sessions with students.

Widespread poverty

By the end of January, over 10,000 women had taken part in the campaign, more than 6,000 more than anticipated.

An estimated 66 per cent of Palestine refugees in Lebanon cannot meet their basic everyday needs. They often rely heavily on UNRWA assistance, particularly for primary health and education.

The campaign was run in co-ordination with UNICEF, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, MAP UK, ANERA and five local NGOs: Naba’a, NISCVT, PARD, GUPW and PWHO. The campaign, which cost just under US$ 50,000, was co-funded by UNICEF and MAP UK.

As part of a wider contribution to UNRWA to improve maternal and child health, the government of Japan also partly contributed to this project.

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