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The city of 10,000 lakes: Gaza after the rain

Last week, Jasmine, our Chief Executive was here and was shocked at the dusty, windy conditions inside the tent clinics. I wonder what she would think if she was here today? 

Today I was supposed to do a case study with a child benefiting from our Health Programme Response, which takes place in two tents in the Ezbet Abed Rabbou area, north of Gaza –  the same area Jasmine visited. I was shocked to see almost all of the tents down because of the rain and winds that hit Gaza today and yesterday. Mercifully, this winter’s rains are lighter than most years, but  the conflict could not have happened at a worse time of year.

We found some of the people who had been sheltering  in the tents taking refuge in partially destroyed houses nearby. So people who lost their homes completely and  then their tents are now getting  ‘shelter ‘ inside homes without windows or doors, and in some cases they are without walls even. So even the houses displaced people are using can not be  described as ‘shelter’.

Our two clinic tents were moved to a nearby house, also without windows but our colleagues put some plastic sheeting up in place of the glass. This is considered a temporarily location for the clinic, because the response was meant to have the health service in the same area where the displaced people are, so the tents will be set up again to help them – some of the people in Gaza in greatest need of help.

These clinics are part of our project to help young children and pregnant women who have been displaced by the conflict get the essential basic healthcare they need. We’re setting up clinics in four locations in the north of Gaza and in Gaza City, all of them are in tents, where we make the first medical check in the tents, and after that we refer the cases in need to the clinics inside Gaza and Jabalia Cities. This means that we are worried about the other clinics also being flattened by the rain. Using clinics like these we’ll be able to help around 5,000 young children and 1,600 pregnant women. We can never be sure that any future rain won’t destroy the tents again, we can only hope and always be ready to use alternative locations in times of  wind and rain.

But our health clinics are only a couple of the scores of tents that I’ve  become used to seeing around Gaza in recent weeks. Today, most are looking even sorrier and very wet.

These poor people sheltering in the ruins of Ezbet Abed Rabbou became refugees after the 1948 war, then suffered in the 1967 war, lost their homes in the Israeli offensive in January 2009, and now lose their TENTS to the rain of February 2009. What else they should face? 

After spending a couple of hours talking to the children there and learning more about their suffering , it  made me believe in the increasing importance of continuing what I’m doing as a staff member of Save the Children, and to make sure that Gaza and its people are at the top of colleagues’ priorities at Head Office, as I’m sure they are dealing with other similar suffering of children in different other locations of this world.

The thing I would like to end with is that I went to that location having a dark image of many things, and instead of the image getting much darker after having that experience in Exbet Abed Rabbou; the laughs of the children there and the wet dark hair of the girls playing under the rain made me see a real light in the end of a long dark tunnel, this light that we should bring to those children through continuing to assist and help Gazan children and getting more support to them.

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