Caritas Jerusalem launches health project for 5,000 children

 Caritas Jerusalem is finalizing a large-scale health campaign for 5000 Palestinian children in the West Bank. The project is supported by Secours Catholique (Caritas France) through ECHO with a budget of 400,000 Euro. During the past five months 5000 Palestinian school children from 1st to 6th grade had the issue of health on the agenda in various ways. The Caritas health campaign combines concrete support with awareness raising and education: Lectures, health screenings, food supplies, and school bag and dental kit deliveries are all part of the project, which children in all together 18 schools benefit from. The campaign ends in three weeks, after 5 1/2 month. Caritas Jerusalem's project manager, Jamil Khoury explains the motivation behind project: "Two main indicators showed us, that the health care of children was a sector needing attention: First, experiences from our two Caritas health clinics revealed hearing and visual problems for many young students. Second, a Care report issued last spring pointed at a great increase in malnutrition and anaemia among Palestinians." Caritas chose to focus on children aged 5-11 - a group getting very little attention. "No health checks or health awareness programmes are provided between the 1st and 6th grade," Jamil Khoury said. Caritas expects the campaign to have a great impact. "Many places, malnutrition is connected to lack of education," Anne Bertheleme, one of the project coordinators from Secour Catholique, said. "The campaign combines long-term aspects of education with alleviating urgent needs." First stage of the project was lectures by medical staff on topics of malnutrition, hygiene, dental hygiene, domestic accidents, and car accidents in each class. The lectures were followed by extensive health screenings of every child including blood checks. Medical treatment was offered when necessary. "The screenings have a dual effect," Jamil Khoury explains. "They assure treatment, but they also help raise awareness of the body's health among the children - even when they are okay." The same goes for the lunch deliveries. For 2 1/2 months students will receive daily lunch packages consisting of bread, diary products and fruit. "They eat a healthy diary, and at the same time become aware of the health aspects connected to what they put in their mouth, through the campaign" Anne Bertheleme says. In Jifna, 148 students have now received daily lunch deliveries for 2 months. Iman Abdo, who represents the local partner, Jifna Women's Organization, is very satisfied: "Many children don't eat healthy food. Here in Jifna, the reason is lack of money. To by for example fruit every day is costly. When the children receive food packages every day for almost three months it makes a difference." The students themselves seem happy about their daily lunch packages, and notice the difference. 11 year-old Majd from Jifna said: "We like the cheese and the mortadella. From home we mostly get hummus, and no yoghurt." Israeli road blocks and closures of Palestinian towns, established for security reasons, made the planned daily lunch deliveries impossible in many places. Instead Caritas Jerusalem decided to provide a one time delivery of a food parcel to each child's family here. The health screenings will serve as an extensive survey of the general health status among Palestinian children this age. After finalizing the project Caritas Jerusalem will analyze the results, determine the trends, and decide on the follow up. The health campaign is carried out in the villages and towns of Beit Rima, Deir Ghasane, Aboud, Ein Arik, Jifna, Taybeh, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Beit Jallah, and Zababde.

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