Celebrating the Palestinian NGO Project: Helping Those in Need

June 1, 2011

June 2011 - The World Bank’s development agenda for the West Bank and Gaza has long recognized the importance of supporting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as a way to help promote social inclusion and citizen participation. Since 1997, the Bank has invested USD 33 million of its own money in the NGO sector through a series of projects and succeeded in leveraging an additional $36 million from other donors.

As a result, World Bank and donor supported grants have helped local NGOs make a significant difference in the lives of Palestinians faced with an uncertain peace process and a fragile economic state. In addition to critical services such as access to medical equipment and technology, local NGOs have given a voice to disadvantaged groups.

On June 22, 2011, the World Bank and the NGO Development Center (NDC) celebrated the Third Palestinian NGO project (PNGO III) bringing together some 42 NGOs from all over the West Bank to showcase their achievements in benefitting their local communities and beneficiaries in various sectors.

The PNGO III project, which closed on March 31 2001, was designed to provide social services to the poor and vulnerable or to those people affected by the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions in the West Bank and Gaza. The project also supported the establishment of the NDC itself with the mandate to promote the development of a responsive and accountable Palestinian civil society. This umbrella organization provides technical assistance and mobilizes grant making resources for NGOs. It also proved to be an effective mechanism for channeling funds to NGOs and helping to develop the NGO sector. Notable among its achievements was the development of an NGO Code of Conduct, a first in the Arab World.

“By focusing on service delivery NGOs can serve to amplify the voices of the most needy citizens and play a role in monitoring the effective delivery of services,” said Mariam Sherman, World Bank Country Director. "Our work with NGOs is to ensure continued services to the poorest in a way that complements and enhances broader state building efforts.”

At the event, Palestinian Prime Minster Dr. Salam Fayyad commended the World Bank development program and its support to strengthen the capacity of Palestinian institutions including the NGO sector: “The Palestinian Authority is committed to support and partner with civil society institutions. We acknowledge the contribution of the NGOs in the provision of essential social services in particular in the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem and areas where the public sector has difficulties to operate,” he said.

The World Bank is continuing its support of NGOs through the Fourth Palestinian NGO project. Working in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, the Bank is ensuring a sustainable and quality service delivery to the poor and vulnerable while being cognizant of the important role appropriate governance arrangements play in this segment of civil society.

“Beyond service delivery it is also clear that NGOs need to have high levels of accountability and transparency,” added Mariam Sherman, Country Director. “ In this regard the development of the Code of Conduct under the PNGOIII has been a major achievement and is recognized as a model to set ethical guidelines and management standards for NGOs.”

Concrete examples of the impact of the project

Providing local access to specialized health services - Many specialized health services are unavailable in the Palestinian health system. Patients in need are regularly referred to Jordanian or Israeli facilities. This drives up costs, significantly delays treatment and may even threaten the lives of non-ambulatory patients.

Bethlehem - Caritas Baby Hospital (CBH), 2010 - USD 230,000 grant to purchase the echocardiography machine

Rahaf Bazay'a, a five-year-old girl from Hebron, had difficulty breathing. She was diagnosed with a heart problem but due to limited resources at a nearby hospital in Hebron, the exact cause of the heart problem remained unknown. Rahaf's medical situation worsened. At that time, the CBH received a grant to purchase a high-standard echocardiography machine with 3-dimensional modality that can examine heart anatomy in depth and accurately. At the CBH, Rahaf’s examination showed a congestive heart failure and she was transferred to an Israeli hospital for an immediate heart operation. Though the surgery went well, a regular check-up a week later at CBH discovered a large amount of pericardial effusion around her heart. Rahaf was placed under intensive heart monitoring and medical treatment. Three days later, her health stabilized and she was discharged from the CBH.

The echocardiography machine is the first of its kind in the West Bank and allows three-dimensional examination of the heart, helps in assessing difficult cases, and provides detailed examination of the fetus’s heart during pregnancy.

Nablus - St. Luke hospital, 2010 – USD 253,000 grant to develop the neurosurgery and spine department

Ibrahim Hindiyeh, a ten-year-old child suffering from paraplegia, can now control his lower limbs and walk again. An MRI found tension in his spinal cord which prevented movement in his lower limbs and function control. The only chance for Ibrahim to walk again was surgery to free the spinal cord from the pressure. The grant financed the equipment for microscopic surgery. In the past, these cases were transferred to Israeli or Jordanian hospitals, which were very costly. “The microscope we have today is very advanced and comparable to that found at the Hadassah Hospital in Israel,” said Dr. Mufeed Yacoub, Head of Neurosurgery and Spine Department.

With this grant, the hospital now functions as a referral center for neurosurgical cases. 90% are referred by the Ministry of Health, and 10% are private. Until March 2010, the number of cases treated in this department reached 320, a rate of 25-30 cases a month.

Empowering marginalized communities - The program supported experienced NGOs by providing innovative social services to poor and marginalized communities. Not only did it build the capacity of the NGOs but empowered communities by involving them in the process of identifying their needs.

Jerusalem – Saraya Center for Community Services, 2007. USD 90,000 grant to develop an educational support program for school students and to support the center’s services.

Salwa Al Tahan, a 14-year-old from Al Fata El Lajia School was trained on various computer programs, applications and software, which significantly improved her computer skills. Following her completion of the program, Salwa produced a documentary about Jerusalem using Microsoft Movie Maker.

The program aimed at empowering students in computer application and usage and enhancing their intellectual and cultural knowledge. A total of 200 students representing five schools in the Jerusalem area benefited from this program.

Ramallah – Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange (PACE), 2007 – USD 65,000 grant to conduct training for women living in marginalized and poor areas in addition to purchase of equipment and supplies.

Mrs. Sharifa Yousef Ali (Um Ali), a 51-year-old handicrafts expert from Beit Rima, west of Ramallah, is the sole financial support for her sick husband and eight children. In 2001, Um Ali attended a handicrafts training course at PACE to further develop her skills in copper plating, olive branch basket weaving, olive oil soap production and embroidery. Um Ali excelled in her craft and became the handicraft trainer at the association. In January 2008, she became a senior trainer providing handicrafts training to women from different villages in the West Bank and to students in Ramallah. PACE also helps with marketing and selling the handicrafts.

PACE is a Palestinian NGO with a mission to protect and promote endangered Palestinian cultural heritage, particularly traditional Palestinian handicrafts.

Nablus - Askar refugee camp - Edward Said National Musical Conservatory, 2007 – USD 70,000 grant to improve the musical life of Palestinians with a focus on disadvantaged youth.

At the young age of 11, Nour already knows what she would like to be when she grows up: a professional violin player, travelling to different countries, sharing her music with the world. Like thousands of children, Nour was born and raised in the Askar refugee camp near the city of Nablus in the West Bank surrounded by difficult living conditions, poverty, unemployment, and overcrowding. With limited exposure to the outside world and a life of instability and anxiety, most young camp residents had little to look forward to, little to hope for. Then, in 2007, the Edward Said National Musical Conservatory started a music education program for camp residents between the ages of 6 and16, where they could study music free of charge. A total of 36 students are currently enrolled in the program, pursuing their studies daily after school hours. Here, Nour discovered her interest in the violin as well as confidence and a sense of hope.

The Conservatory is supported to run its music program that provides students with a chance to cope with a life under siege and look forward to a better future.

Providing education for special-needs children - Special-needs children have an equal right to education and improving academic achievement for thesm helps reduce the social stigma surrounding their condition.

Gaza - The Graduates’ Union for the Visually Impaired, 2007 – USD 93,500 grant to upgrade the Union talking library.

Hamed Rajab Albitar was born blind, into a modest family. He suffered in his schooling from the lack of appropriate learning tools and faced a large hurdle on his educational path when he entered university. The university library lacked voice books and his only recourse was the Graduates’ Union for the Visually Impaired. In 2006, Hamed borrowed recorded books on cassettes; mostly poor in quality. It became easier when the union started to digitally record books. Given his precarious financial situation, the union awarded him a MP3 player to upload vocal files. For Hamed this was the breakthrough: the technology allowed him to participate in computer courses designed for the visually impaired and obtain books from the internet. In 2009, he completed his higher education with honors, and was employed by the school he attended as a child to run its digital book recording project.

The grant contributed to the provision of school books to the visually impaired, uploading more than 3000 books on their website. This group also benefited from computer, internet and website training, as well as talking-software programs. It has led to a relatively easier integration of this marginalized group and has provided them with opportunities for furthering their education.