DSPR Update on Gaza
A new update from #Gaza
According to latest statistics, the DISPLACED in Gaza have reached the 300,000 mark. Most of them are housed in UNRWA, Government and Private Schools, including Church Schools, Churches and Mosques. Coping with the influx of the displaced as they moved from the Eastern parts of Gaza to the Southern parts is not an easy task. UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon has spoken of the inability of UNRWA to cope with the needs of the displaced, especially that there are no available stored supplies of food, hygiene and other basic necessities. The warning given to the population by the Israeli war machine that their neighborhood would be bombed does not allow them to take any of their belongings with them, and according to Dr. Suhaila Tarazi, director of Ahli Anglican Hospital, many leave their homes without even taking their Identity Cards with them. The UNRWA schools that house a majority of the displaced have inadequate health, hygiene and food commodities. A complicating factor, according to Dr. Issa Tarazi, the Executive Director of DSPR Gaza is the fact that electricity has been completely cut off for the last two days and people cannot have access to water because the pumps do not function anymore. Refrigerators thus become obsolete and there is no way to keep perishable food any more.
Children suffer most as Ahli Hospital hosts 120 children, on average, who are inflicted with Diarrhea, Rash, Infections and other bodily ills caused by the deteriorating humanitarian situation. The Hospital has treated over 400 injured since the start of the war and as the need develops wards are opened to receive the injured. At present there are 25 patients being treated for injuries. Some of their family members and others use the Hospital to have some food and to take a shower. But the situation has driven all staff at the Hospital and elsewhere in Gaza to the point of exhaustion.
As colleagues in Gaza have spoken of the numbers killed overnight adding to the already heavy tolls of innocent civilians and children, it appears that what Dr. Vamik Volkan, a Harvard Psychiatrist, has written in 1979 about War and Adaptation in Cyprus sadly applies here. Adaptation to the ongoing war means that we have become desensitized to the brutality of war and to what tolls it exacts in terms of human and environmental costs. It also means that we have withdrawn to our own version of the reality, with all its cruelty, to the neglect and negation of other versions.
The tragedy is that thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have become destitute as they lost homes, families and loved ones. The urgency of relief becomes a primary concern while, at the same time, politicians are only concerned about their agendas. Unfortunately even relief can become a political tool and this is why it is important that our work on the ground steer clear from any political motive. Our goal is to serve the people in need and not to become part of an ugly political game.
From all accounts, our colleagues in Gaza and their families cannot sleep at night. The intensity of the bombing together with the outage of electricity, lack of potable water, unavailability of fresh food or fruit have brought our Palestinian people in Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Presumably people in the Middle Ages lived a normal life; in contrast our people in Gaza live amidst rubble and destruction all around. A lady I spoke with told me that the Israelis have gone crazy as they are incessantly bombing and shelling and they never stop. She questioned: Who is going to stop this craziness and when?
While UNRWA is trying its best to cater to those who are temporarily housed on its school premises, there are others who sought refuge with Churches, Private Schools and Mosques. The Greek Orthodox Church opened its doors to more than 800 people; the Roman Catholic Latin Church is hosting close to 900 people; the Greek Orthodox Cultural Center is home to 500 people while the Mosque across from the Greek Orthodox Church has around 500 people on its premises. These displaced people are in need of food, water and maintenance of hygiene. It is not sure that the stores in Gaza have the required supplies to cover all the needs. This is why we are approaching some international organizations that can move around to check on whether they can supply food packages to the Churches, Private Schools, DSPR Clinics and the Ahli Hospital.
On DSPR part already work is being done to assess the needs that will emerge once a ceasefire is agreed upon. Among the most pressing needs would be food and working with others to plan how to help accommodate the displaced in more livable conditions. There will be need to assess what supplies are available in which stores and which organizations are engaged in food distribution. One of the things that we are studying at present is whether there is a need to send bottled water as we did in the previous war. Once our clinics are operating again, we would learn of the various needs of the population and we will update you. If any damage has occurred to our clinics and offices, we will detail these and inform you. It is too dangerous, as the bombardment and shelling are going on, to expect opening up of our clinics and offices. Actually, most people opt to stay indoors and when warned of impending bombing they have practically no time to run for their lives.
Our most pressing concern and priority is to serve people and to cater to their immediate needs, at this stage. As a medical doctor from Gaza informed me tending to the physical wounds and the basic needs of the population is the most pressing need, at present. When I asked about the “post traumatic disorder syndrome” and what he plans to do, his convincing answer was that the priority at present is survival. Once we have survived, we would deal with the post traumatic disorder. Very sad! DSPR is ready to work with other organizations, both local and international, as we all focus on our people and their needs. It appears that we do not need to make additional appeals to the international community and the “influential” Western governments to get them to use their influence to stop the carnage and the continuing killing and destruction, as these appeals have been futile. And as a young Palestinian asked me yesterday: how can we use the popular support to Gaza and its people seen on the streets of Europe and elsewhere to make governments act accordingly. I have no answer but I trust that we should all be talking to our governments and insisting that we cannot have peace between Palestinians and Israelis by bombarding Palestinians back to the Stone Age!
*Dr. Bernard Sabellais the Executive Secretary of the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches, a Global Ministries partner.