The Palestinian Ministry of Health is working to improve its services to citizens, with support from USAID. Because healthy behavior starts in the home and the community, the ministry is turning to Palestinian women to help achieve high-quality health care for all.
In 56 villages across the West Bank, the Ministry of Health is working with residents to identify — and act on — key priorities for primary health care delivery, through the collaborative Champion Community Approach. In many of these communities, young women like Hana Masoud have become grassroots advocates, working with local organizations to identify critical health needs.
Through home visits and health campaigns, Hana has encouraged women to discuss health care issues. The women in her village quickly became champions for change. “[They] had a desire to challenge,” she explains. “One of the biggest achievements was how women changed from just receiving health lectures to actively participating in campaigns previously limited to men.”
As Hana found, involving women can create change that ripples out that much further. The Ministry of Health is teaming up with mothers to teach their children about healthy living. In a twist to its annual USAID-supported summer camps, the ministry meets with the mothers of campers beforehand to get them thinking about how they can help their children change unhealthy behaviors. From making sure their children eat breakfast to monitoring hand-washing habits, the mothers will be able to reinforce basic health messages the children receive at the summer camps and pass on the messages to their other children and relatives.
Alongside its support to the ministry, the USAID health project is also working with local nongovernmental organizations to expand rehabilitative services not available from government providers. In turn, these organizations are turning to mothers to extend the impact of their USAID-funded activities.
For example, at the Jerusalem Center for Disabled Children, Palestinian mothers are learning how to better care for their disabled children within their communities. While disabled children receive residential care, the center teaches mothers about the disability, how to cope physically and emotionally with their children’s condition, and how to provide physical therapy for their children at home. After graduating from the two-week program, mothers are able to advocate for themselves and their children in their community, particularly for treatment, access, and education. In many cases, they have supported each other.
From mobilizing communities to caring for children, the USAID health project is placing women at the center of an ongoing health reform by asking them to mobilize Palestinians to demand, receive, and provide high-quality health care, for even the most vulnerable.