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Social Development


Rural Development
Rural Development in SyriaWith limited infrastructure for water redistribution, AKDN has been working to improve water management in rural areas.Water scarcity poses a major challenge for Syria’s agricultural sector. Of Syria’s seven aquifers, only two, near the Euphrates and coastal areas, carry surplus water. Dry climates aggravate the shortage further. With limited infrastructure for water redistribution and increasing demand nationally, AKDN has been working to improve water management in rural areas, which includes building long-term awareness of water availability and drought-resistant crops. The Foundation’s initiatives include programmes to increase agricultural productivity, diversify income sources, and improve rural livelihoods complementing efforts by other international agencies such as Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit, Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Dutch Government.

Health
Health in SyriaAKDN is working closely with both the government and community-based organizations on improving standards and quality of care.National health policy and practice continues to emphasize curative care rather than preventative care. Public resources are unable to cope with rapidly increasing demand. The negative effects of privatization of health services, the low wages for healthcare staff, and weak allied health services e.g., nursing, clinical pharmacy, epidemiology are all reasons that affect quality of care, particularly in rural areas. A focus on community health, environmental health and disease prevention is critical to the improvement of long-term wellness, given current demographic trends. Integrated health and early childhood education services, with particular focus on mothers and young children, are important to enhance health and educational status and thus strengthen Syria’s long-term economic outlook.

AKDN has responded to these challenges by adopting an integrated approach towards improving the quality of healthcare in Syria, which links community health programmes, nursing education and improvement of the standards of healthcare in Syrian hospitals and health clinics.

AKDN is working closely with both the government and community-based organizations on improving standards and quality of care, as well as on developing mechanisms for community-based health care financing. Discussions with the Ministry of Health include priority setting in areas such as increasing hospital autonomy and furthering collaboration in policy making and joint training programmes with the Aga Khan University’s School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences and Department of Community Health. Community-based organizations and Village Development Councils are vital AKDN partners in an effort to improve quality of care and increase community trust in local health centres by providing training for a spectrum of health staff.

Education
Education in SyriaThe Syrian Ministry of Education increasingly recognizes the importance of Early Childhood Development (ECD), which focuses on mothers and young children to improve cognitive development and learning preparedness.The Syrian government has recognized the need for reform and investment in education, from pre-primary to tertiary levels, to move Syria gradually towards global competitiveness. The government is supported by the European Union and EU member states, which emphasize human resource development among their development priorities for Syria. In the face of growing demand for quality education, job-ready skills, and qualifications that are internationally recognized, the Ministry of Education has shown willingness for education reform. The Ministry has developed a new law on private education, thus opening the door for private schools in Syria. AKDN is particularly interested in promoting not-for-profit private schools, and has been asked to help establish Professional Development Centres to improve teacher education and performance. Discussions with the Ministry of Education have also begun on the establishment of an Aga Khan Academy in Damascus. The Academy will be part of a system of some 20 private, not-for-profit schools that will provide world class education through the International Baccalaureate curriculum from pre-primary to higher secondary levels in selected countries of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

The Ministry has also shown a keen interest in improving English language instruction in Syria. English teachers will spearhead a programme to re-conceptualize the role of the teacher as a catalyst for modernizing teaching practices and improving education broadly. AKDN and the Syrian government have since worked together on ways to strengthen teaching capacity through training delivered by the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED), to improve the quality of English language instruction through curriculum development, new pedagogical approaches, and computer-based learning. AKU-IED is developing a programme with the Ministry of Education for providing technical assistance in teacher education and development.

The Syrian Ministry of Education increasingly recognizes the importance of Early Childhood Development (ECD), which focuses on mothers and young children to improve cognitive development and learning preparedness. In Syria, early childhood education services - generally provided by the state - are poorly developed and reach less than 10 percent of children. AKDN has played a lead role in working with the Ministry of Education, the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs and UNICEF in developing a framework strategy for ECD in Syria, including curriculum development and teacher training.

Civil Society
Civil SocietyAKDN will work closely with the government to strengthen rural and urban citizens’ organizations through training and capacity building.The Government has recognized that the state cannot meet the total social and economic needs of every citizen and can benefit from community-based initiatives as an engine for socio-economic development. Non-profit, community-based organizations have an important role to play in providing social services, fostering professional networks, and generating employment opportunities. The recent creation of FIRDOS (Fund for Integrated Rural Development of Syria), SYEA (Syrian Young Entrepreneurs Association), Bidaya and Mawred (incubators to assist start-ups), and the registration of several new NGOs working in areas like environmental management, suggest that the government is willing to experiment with trustworthy groups able to fill gaps where state resources are increasingly scarce.

AKDN will work closely with the government to strengthen rural and urban citizens’ organizations through training and capacity building.

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