The Middle East and North Africa Harm Reduction Association (MENAHRA) was first launched in 2007 as an initiative from the World Health Organization, in cooperation with Harm Reduction International within the project “promoting the role of civil society organizations in the MENA region. Building on the outcomes of the initiative, today MENAHRA is an independent international NGO registered in Beirut under Presidential Decree number 7491, and its main funder is the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFATM).’.
MENAHRA is the first network on injecting drugs harm reduction in the MENA covering 20 countries (Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, UAE, Yemen), with its secretariat in Beirut, and three knowledge hubs (KHs) based in Iran (KH-INCAS), Lebanon (KH-SIDC), and Morocco (KH-ArRazi).
The initiative was launched during a regional workshop organised by UNODC, UNAIDS, WHO and GTZ with the aim of stimulating informed national policymaking, and programme design and implementation in response to drug use and HIV in the region. The workshop comprised of HIV and drug use stakeholders from different sectors in MENA. In addition to the objective of increasing commitment to harm reduction, the consultation intended to explore and reach consensus on the establishment of a regional network on harm reduction. WHO and IHRA presented the Drosos funded project. Through interactive means, the participants discussed and provided their recommendations regarding the administration, location and membership of a regional network on harm reduction.
Following the consultation, an open and transparent call for proposals was launched in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Lebanon, and Morocco for the establishment of sub-regional knowledge hubs. The applicants of accepted proposals were assessed on the ground and selected to host the Sub-Regional Knowledge Hubs as follows:
- Lebanon: Soins Infirmiers et Développement Communautaire (SIDC) hosts the sub-regional knowledge hub for Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Yemen and the six Gulf States.
- Iran: The Iranian National Centre on Addictions (INCAS) hosts the sub-regional knowledge hub for Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan.
- Morocco: ArRazi Hospital in Rabat hosts the sub-regional knowledge hub for Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.
Based on the recommendations of the participants of the consultation, Caritas – Alexandria in Egypt and SIDC in Lebanon were approached to submit proposals for hosting the interim network secretariat based on their known experience in harm reduction and networking in the region. Proposal screening resulted in the selection of SIDC.
Moreover, in order to establish a uniform monitoring and evaluation system, the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention Department of INCAS was also selected as the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit of the MENAHRA Project.
In June 2007, the directors of the selected institutions, the managers of the sub-regional knowledge hubs, the coordinator of the interim secretariat and representatives WHO, IHRA and Drosos foundation met for the first time in the offices of WHO-EMRO in Egypt. This team agreed to become the Project Management Group (PMG).
A sub-group composed of the Sub-Regional Knowledge Hub Managers and the Network Coordinator was formed constituting the Project Implementation Group (PIG). Decisions regarding the overall approach of operation, image, and name of the project were taken during the meeting. The name “MENAHRA,” which stands for Middle East and North Africa Harm Reduction Association, was agreed on as the name of the network, with the three Sub-Regional Knowledge Hubs being its main pillars. The PMG later defined its institutional objectives and strategic targets, and developed a monitoring and evaluation framework for measuring its progress, outputs, outcomes, and impact.
In 2009, MENAHRA became an independent social corporate, and in 2012, it was officially registered as an international organisation under Lebanese presidential decree number 7491.