The Lebanese Association for Family Health ‘Salama’ concluded its project on “Reducing maternal mortality and morbidity related to reproductive health among Syrian refugees and the Lebanese host communities in the Bekaa” funded by Japan Trust Fund and extending from September 1, 2019 till December 31, 2021. A closing ceremony was hosted on the occasion at the Movenpick Hotel in Beirut, in the presence of President of Salama Association, Dr. Joseph Challita, representative of the Japanese Embassy in Lebanon, Ms. Maki Yamaguchi, representative of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Ms. Mireille Rahmeh, Head of the Lebanese Order of Midwives, Ms. Daad Akoum, and a crowd of volunteers and representatives of international organizations and civil society groups.
The welcome speech was delivered by the association’s president, Dr. Challita, who affirmed Salama’s unyielding endeavors to contribute to reducing problems related to family planning and reproductive health in Lebanon.
“We are honored by your presence today at the closing ceremony of our project funded by Japan. This project aims at reducing maternal mortality and morbidity related to reproductive health among Syrian refugees and host communities in the Bekaa, and has spanned for two years, kicking off on September 1, 2019 and concluding on December 31, 2021,” Challita said.
“As you know, the Lebanese Association for Family Health ‘Salama’ is a member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which is the largest voluntary non-governmental organization in the world, working on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) issues and advocating for them. IPPF operates in nearly 170 countries,” he went on to explain.
“Salama seeks, through its clinics, to ensure that all groups of society, especially marginalized groups, have access to the sexual and reproductive health services they need, especially since many women and girls in Lebanon find themselves in need of contraceptives/family planning and sexual health services yet have no access to them, for an array of reasons, such as their low income, or the fact that they reside in rural areas, have special needs, or are People Living with HIV , in addition to a series of other factors somewhat common among marginalized and disadvantaged groups,” Challita added.
He thanked, in this context, the Japanese government for its continuous support to the association since 2017, noting that funds were provided for Salama to establish and operate its clinic in the Bekaa-Karak area, purchase a car for field visits, and provide services in rural areas.
“For the second time, the Japanese government has been generous in supporting our endeavors to provide services and assistance in light of the humanitarian crises facing host communities in the Bekaa.”
“We are gathered here today to celebrate our success in implementing this project. Let us strive together, as always, to make our voices heard by leaders and decision makers who have the ability to create an environment that facilitates equal access to contraceptives and family planning services for all women and girls. This is done by setting the appropriate policies and the necessary budgets, and by providing these services to the widest possible segment of society,” Challita urged.
He concluded his address by stressing that Salama will pursue its mission to advocate for reproductive and sexual health rights, provide and support high-quality services, and raise awareness among all groups of society, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized.
Executive Director of Salama Association, Ms. Lina Sabra, indicated in her speech that the clinic established by Salama in Karak was funded by Japan, and that “the association received support, once more, from the Japanese government through Japan Trust Fund in order to operate the same clinic, provide services, and raise awareness. In both projects, the association was committed to the priorities of Japan’s official development assistance ODA policy, which focuses on empowering all marginalized groups that need services and respecting the cultures of different communities. Through the two projects, Salama focused on contributing to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 3, 5, and 13.”
“We will communicate with decision-makers in the country to set a budget for sexual and reproductive health services, and we are working hand-in-hand with the International Planned Parenthood Federation for this end,” Sabra said, revealing a planned conference with Arab parliamentarians to provide training on how to allocate budgets at the countries levels to meet the populations’ sexual and reproductive health needs. However, due to the global coronavirus pandemic and the recent emergence of the Omicron variant, the conference has been postponed to a date to be determined later.”
Sabra finally thanked Japan and the Japanese government for their full support to the awareness projects carried out by the association.
Head of the Lebanese Order of Midwives in Lebanon, Daad Akoum, pointed out that partnership with the Salama Association has started since the Beirut Port explosion, for the aim of supporting affected people and providing them with subsidies and medicines, in addition to conducting home visits to pregnant and breastfeeding women to check in on them throughout their pregnancy and also postpartum, and provide psychological support and healthcare for them by ensuring they have access to supplements and family planning services.
In Akoum’s words, Salama is working tirelessly to reduce morbidity and mortality related to maternal and reproductive health among Syrian refugees and the most in need Lebanese communities in the Bekaa. “We had initially contributed to this project by providing training to the association’s staff on family planning counseling and on how to provide correct information to the beneficiaries in all matters pertaining to sexual and reproductive health. We have also contributed to the project by preparing scientific and practical content on the subject of breastfeeding to be circulated through video presentations and publications…”
Representative of the Japanese embassy, Maki Yamaguchi, also delivered a word in which she expressed her pleasure to be present at the closing ceremony of this successful project, which spanned for two years, stressing her country’s full support for this type of awareness campaigns and the provision of quality services to communities.
She said: “In light of the multiple crises that Lebanon is facing, it has become difficult for the Lebanese community and the Syrian refugees to access the necessary health services, hence the importance of launching successful projects,” adding that, “despite all the efforts made by all donors, the health system in Lebanon is still suffering.”
The Japanese official stressed that the goal of the project was to reduce the rate of deaths and diseases in Lebanese and Syrian refugees societies, declaring that her country’s government will maintain its unyielding support for Lebanon by upholding all projects related to human development.
The closing ceremony also featured awareness videos highlighting the importance of breastfeeding, a video footage of a campaign titled “Violence is a habit…violence isn’t normal”, and a detailed presentation on the achievements of the project.
This project aims to reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity related to sexual and reproductive health among Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities by increasing the provision of services related to sexual and reproductive health, family planning, and HIV. It also deals with empowering Syrians Refugees and host communities to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.
As for the services provided by this project, they are diverse, as more than 102,000 sexual and reproductive health services were delivered to 6,115 beneficiaries from all groups of society.
A project targeting pregnant women was implemented, through which women were provided with Anti-Natal Care ANC and Post-Natal Care PNC at the Salama clinics, and the costs of childbirth were covered in 3 partner hospitals. After that, the children were examined and cared for at the clinics.
200 mama-baby Kits were distributed to mothers who were in dire need of such an assistance in light of all the crises facing Lebanon, namely the unavailability/soaring prices of medicines, sanitary pads, diapers, and formula.
In partnership with the Lebanese Order of Midwives in Lebanon, staff and volunteers were trained on family planning counseling and methods. A total of 39,484 family planning services were provided.
Given the success of these distinguished programs, in addition to networking with other projects (funded by the UK Government and UNFPA), Salama has managed to exceed its target and provided nearly 60,000 additional services.
Volunteers and staff provided awareness sessions for 8,950 beneficiaries on sexual and reproductive health topics: family planning methods, unsafe abortion, gender-based violence, sexually-transmitted infections and HIV, breastfeeding, breast cancer, proper nutrition, personal hygiene, pregnancy, and coronavirus.
Furthermore, field visits were conducted across camps and homes for the purpose of educating people, providing services, and distributing 1,000 “dignity kits” (in addition to 3,000 dignity kits from another project). Women were in dire need of these kits, given the dreadful economic conditions prevailing over Lebanon.
Salama also issued a brochure on breastfeeding, in partnership with the Lebanese Order of Midwives in Lebanon.
During the month of October, which is designated for breast cancer awareness, Salama implemented a breast cancer awareness campaign and made referrals for free mammography, in collaboration with the Lebanese Red Cross and local laboratories.
It also launched awareness campaigns across social media platforms, the first of which about breastfeeding during the World Breastfeeding Week from August 1 to 7, and the second about violence during the 16-days of activism against gender-based violence from November 25 till December 10. The online campaigns reached more than a million viewers.
Salama faced various challenges throughout the project period, starting with the political crises in Lebanon and the roads cut off, moving on to the economic and financial crises and the difficulty in withdrawing money from banks, through to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent general mobilization, and finally, to the power cut offs, the gasoline shortage, and the inability to secure medicines and family planning services.
Despite it all, Salama managed to face these challenges head-on by cutting down on working days, welcoming beneficiaries on pre-set appointments, commitment to precaution procedures, adopting alternative means to secure electricity, and hiring young volunteers to help in clinics.