January 16 2009

Families' hardship in Gaza continues

16/01/2009 - Though no casualties have been reported from among the families who receive support from SOS Children's Villages, many have been severely affected, two children have been badly injured


Photo: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA) courtesy of www.alertnet.org
For families in the Gaza Strip, there is no relief in sight - Photo: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA) courtesy of www.alertnet.org
Continued violence in the Gaza Strip has affected all 196 beneficiary families with 900 children of SOS Children's Villages' family strengthening programme in the area. The SOS Social Centre remains closed for the time being as it is not safe for civilians to travel around at this time.  It is now confirmed that air strikes have badly damaged governmental buildings in the vicinity of the centre while the centre itself remains unharmed.  Volunteers supporting the programme have been directed to remain in their homes while staying in contact with the families by telephone when possible.  The current situation does not permit regular home visits to be conducted at this time. 

According to SOS co-worker Ihsan Redwan, a young boy who was severely wounded in the first days of the attacks is currently with his family in a stable condition although he is not able to access proper health care due to the lack of safety on the streets and the overcrowding in all of Gaza’s hospitals.

Recent information also confirms that a second child from our families was injured.  A young 13 year-old girl living in Al-Burejj refugee camp, was shot in the leg on January 14.  She was taken to Al-Aqsa Shuhada Hospital where her injuries were reported as severe and needing surgical care.  However, due to the lack of doctors and the higher urgency of other cases, she was bandaged and sent home in a stable condition. 

SOS Children's Villages runs family programmes in six major areas of the Gaza Strip: Jabalia refugee camp, Der  Al-Balah, Al Maghazi refugee camp, Al Burejj refugee camp, Rafah, and Khan Younis.  Communication with the families remains extremely difficult in the current situation.  Phone lines are often jammed due to the high volume of calls making it difficult to reach others to obtain accurate information on the status of our families.  In addition, electricity is not available in most areas on a regular basis, which further complicates reliable communication. 

Many of our families have been forced to flee their homes as a result of continued air strikes and more recently the presence of ground troops. Those who have been forced to flee their homes have found refuge with relatives or in UNRWA (United National Relief and Works Agency) shelters.  According to an UN Field Update on Gaza, published January 14, more than 28,000 Gazans have been forced to flee their homes.  This same report has listed ‘protection of civilians’ as one of the priority needs of the current crisis, stating that Gazan civilians, 56% of whom are children, are bearing the brunt of the violence. Families living in Jabalia refugee camp and Rafah have been most affected by recent attacks; civilians are finding it increasingly difficult to find safe shelter.

The distribution of humanitarian goods (food & non-food items) was temporarily halted due to the danger for humanitarian workers but has since resumed.  All families staying in UNRWA shelters are receiving supplies, when possible goods are also delivered to residential areas.  Although many basic food items remain unavailable, as far as we know all of our families have had access to adequate amounts of food over the last 20 days. 

SOS Children's Villages in the Gaza Strip has arranged with UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) to deliver over 300 hygiene kits (complete with blankets, towels, sanitary napkins, slippers, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc…) to beneficiary families in all areas except Jabalia refugee camp, since the volunteer there could not be reached.  Another delivery of hygiene kits will take place in three days.