Enabling a safe and friendly environment for youth at risk to access sexual and reproductive health and substance abuse services across lebanon

Soins Infirmiers et Développement Communautaire, with the support of UNICEF Lebanon and funding from the Italian Cooperation, is currently implementing a project titled “Enabling a safe and friendly environment for youth at risk to access sexual and reproductive health and substance abuse services across Lebanon”. The project’s goal, as the title implies, is to enable a safe and friendly environment for youth most at risk of risky behaviors related to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and substance abuse (SA) in Lebanon. It spans over five months and targets all the eight governorates, as distributed by UNICEF (Beirut, Mount Lebanon, South, Nabatieh, Tripoli, Akkar, Bekaa, and Baalbek). This short-term project is a small part of a larger long-term program with UNICEF to reach our goal and reach youth between the ages of 15 and 24 all over Lebanon.

The two objectives of this project are to 1) provide SRH and SA education and training to at least 100 of UNICEF’s partners’ staff in a series of five 3-day trainings across Lebanon; 2) Pilot an outreach program targeting at least 100 youth at risk on the streets of Beirut and Mount Lebanon.

This project is still in progress. Several trainings have been completed in Tripoli for 17 UNICEF’s partners’ staff from Tripoli and Akkar. The participants conveyed great interest and lack of knowledge on the topics given. Also, they expressed the great need for such knowledge and more interventions in their areas, specifically related to sexual health and SA for all youth, particularly youth at risk.

Through this project, more than 20 local and international organizations all over Lebanon will be trained on information on SRH and SA, and how to identify youth at risk of SA and other risky behaviors. Working with youth is a very delicate matter that requires certain skills.

The second component of the project is piloting an outreach activity targeting youth most at risk on the streets of Beirut and Mount Lebanon (BML). Even though SIDC has been outreaching through individual visits and its mobile unit to youth and adults in BML, this is the first time SIDC and UNICEF partner on implementing such an activity with this population. Youth as young as 12 and 13 years old are being reached to prevent them from harmful acts and infections.

Outreach has begun 1 year ago. There are around 9 areas that the outreach team is being able to visit in total (Bourj Hammoud/Nabaa, Sin El Fil, Sed El Bouchrieh, Jdeideh/Byakout/Zalka/Jal El Dib, and Furn El Chebbak). Each area, or group of areas, is visited once a week. The outreach mobile unit team consists of a social worker or nurse, two peer educators, a driver, and an outreach coordinator. Around eight youth are reached with each field visit. During each visit, HIV and hepatitis B and C tests are done, free of charge and with complete anonymity and confidentiality. Also, harm reduction kits are distributed to injecting drug users when necessary. All youth are receiving awareness about SRH, SA and risky behaviors, with IEC material being distributed. For cases that require follow-up services, the youth are referred to our Harm Reduction and Treatment Center – Escale, or other service centers depending on the case. The outreach activity is proving to be a great success and an alarming need, not just in BML, but in all areas of Lebanon.