| 26 May 2024, Sunday |

SALAMA – the Lebanese Association for Family Health concludes japan-funded project on HIV and reproductive health

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.

  • NNA