On a hot, June day, dozens of children crowded into a classroom in the Abu Firas Secondary School in Jabal Mohsen, Tripoli to watch a marionette show on water conservation and healthy hygiene habits. Outside the classroom, hundreds of other school children eagerly awaited their turn to participate in one of the sessions designed by the group, Les Amis des Marionettes, to both entertain and educate their audience. The series of shows provided a welcomed break in the middle of the exam period while promoting hygiene awareness that the children could adopt into their daily lives.
International Medical Corps partnered with Les Amis des Marionettes to implement the education portion of a water, sanitation, and hygiene project in two impoverished and conflict-affected neighborhoods in Tripoli – Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh. Funded by Earth Council, the program is the first of several proposed initiatives to create “child-friendly” schools in Tripoli. Following a model that International Medical Corps used with UNICEF to build 25 child-friendly schools throughout the country, the project focuses on creating safe, healthy learning environments for children; clean and safe drinking water and sanitation facilities that are a vital part of making this environment possible.
Northern Lebanon has one of the highest school dropout rates in the country and schools with poor facilities and minimal basic water supplies are more likely to experience low school enrollment, absenteeism, poor classroom performance, and early school dropouts. To combat this trend, International Medical Corps rehabilitated the water and sanitation facilities of both schools in two months, benefiting more than 1,000 current and future students and teachers.
International Medical Corps has worked in the long-neglected communities of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh, as well as surrounding neighborhoods, in Tripoli, North Lebanon, since July 2008, to improve local social services, enhance access to quality health care, and provide youth and young adults with vocational training and skills-building opportunities. Due to sectarian and political differences that have divided the two communities, International Medical Corps always implements the same activities in both neighborhoods. This not only builds confidence and trust among beneficiaries but also facilitates conflict mitigation activities that bring the communities together.
To ensure the sustainability of the improved sanitation facilities, International Medical Corps built partnerships with the Ministry of Education and other local stakeholders to guarantee the projects’ long-term upkeep. At the schools, International Medical Corps handed out health education leaflets that to all students and teachers so they could take some of the key lessons home with them.
For the children, the marionette performances proved to be a lively, innovative way to raise their awareness on important health issues and water conservation efforts. The students clapped, sang along, smiled, and laughed as they watched the marionette performances, which incorporated a variety of lessons on hand washing and conscientious water use. At the end of the show, the puppeteers came forward to lead the students in age-appropriate discussions intended to help them think about water usage within their homes, schools, and communities.
In the upcoming months, International Medical Corps is hoping to implement the same water, sanitation, and hygiene program in additional schools in Bab al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.