“Our children are innocent”
I walk out of the building at the crossing into Gaza. A far as the eye can see everything has been flattened. Houses are reduced to rubble and twisted metal. I thought this was from the recent fighting but I later learn this is from previous insurgence. My colleagues who have been waiting for hours for me to get thought the crossing are relieved to see I have made it.
We drive through residential areas, some houses are totally untouched, other with windows blown out but I would say ¾ of the houses have been flattened. Amongst the rubble I spot a little boy maybe only three years old, just like my son when he was a toddler. He was playing amongst the rubble. Seeing that little one, on his own, that was shocking to me.
Our first stop was an area where about 400 families are living in tents. Their homes have been bombed. The tents are tiny, overcrowded and offer little or no protection from the wind and the temperature drops to 7° C at night.
Here we visit a clinic set up by Save the Children’s local partners. As a woman I am allowed to go into the antenatal clinic and I am stunned. As the tent flaps in the wind I am shuffled along the dirt floor to see a worn-out examination chair and vintage scanning machine hitched up to a generator rumbling away outside the tent. The staff look exhausted but they continue to struggle on with no clean water and basic equipment.
Life goes on, as they say. 3,500 children have been born since the fighting began so this clinic is vital but clearly under resourced. What a nightmare. I can only think of the stark contrast from my experience when I was pregnant and my first scan.
We drive on and stop at some of Save the Children’s emergency playschools: child friendly spaces. One is in a tent, another in a donated building. The staff are amazing organising dancing and singing, but I still feel the children are very subdued. We would normally run art projects to help them get over the trauma of the fighting. They would draw pictures and we would run arts and craft workshops but due to the tight border restrictions it’s impossible to get hold of paper. This really hits me, how limiting these border restrictions are. What’s wrong with paper, what harm can it do?
Later on I meet a woman whose baby was born two days before the fighting started. She’s attending a project we are running on water and hygiene. Dirty water is a serious problem, causing diarrhoea and in these situations diarrhoea can easily kill children if untreated. As well as providing water tanks we are teaching people how to conserve water and basic emergency hygiene skills. As I’m leaving the woman holds up her baby and says “Please take our message to the world, we’re peaceful people, our children are innocent.”
Throughout my visit I am shocked to hear stories from our staff, our driver lost five members of his family whilst out distributing food parcels. We need more funding to support the Save the Children team here. They have been working round the clock and none of them have been able to take a break since June 2007 when all Palestinians were barred from leaving Gaza. They can’t go on much longer. Please can someone help sponsor an aid worker? I’m serious…
The Save the Children team here are doing what they can to help with the resources they have, what needs to happen is for the boarders to open so that people can start making a living and to return to a normal life. In the meantime we need your help.