During the festive season, many people consider donating to those in need. Please consider helping to rebuild the lives of Gaza's people.
A six-year-old child in Gaza has already lived through three wars. And the 50-day assault by the Israeli military in July and August this year is being described by those living in Gaza as the most severe ever.
Over 2,200 people were killed - 2,131 Palestinians including 501 children; 66 Israeli soldiers; 5 Israeli civilians and a Thai migrant worker. The UN reports that a further 11,231 Palestinians were injured including 3,436 children and 3,540 women.
Damage to Gaza's public infrastructure was also unprecedented, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without adequate electricity, clean water and healthcare.
Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA Chairperson Angelo Gavrielatos recently saw the situation first hand and described the shock he experienced entering Gaza: "The scale of destruction is immense and unimaginable. Entering Gaza, we were met with buildings partially or totally destroyed and piles of rubble still evident three months after the ceasefire.
Agricultural projects supported by APHEDA were heavily damaged with 1069 out of 1750 projects reporting damage. Greenhouses were destroyed, half a million square metres of vegetable crops and rehabilitated farm land were lost ─ including established olive and citrus groves, and water tanks and irrigation systems.
Over 70% of project participants reported partial destruction of their homes and almost 15% lost their homes completely.
With no other shelter available, some families are living in their greenhouses, which are swelteringly hot during the day and will provide little protection against cold and rain during the coming winter.
89 whole families in Gaza were wiped out.
19 of Gaza’a 32 hospital were destroyed including the El-Wafa Hospital, Gaza’s major rehabilitation hospital. Health workers reported seeing for the first time, children and adults with shattered teeth caused by grinding or clenching their jaws from fright, stress, and anxiety.
Dr Mona El-Farra from Gaza Red Crescent believes that 50 per cent of Gaza's children are severely affected psychologically ─ with children unable to feel safe and showing physical symptoms of fear, including sleeplessness, vomiting and losing the ability to speak.
APHEDA partner organisations Gaza Red Crescent Society and MA'AN Development Centre both have programs to assist children in their recovery from trauma through play-based group therapy activities. These psycho-social recovery programs are crucial, with an estimated 800,000 children under 14 years of age living in Gaza during the most recent violence.
Rebuilding lives will take time
The reconstruction of Gazan lives and infrastructure will be painfully slow and is further frustrated by Israeli and Egyptian restrictions on essential building materials such as concrete and metal. Few people have the income to buy the food available in shops, and the prices of fresh food are rising because of the disruption to the agricultural sector.
Despite the challenging circumstances, Angelo was moved by his visit, which reinforced with him the importance of APHEDA's work in Gaza: "The determination and resilience of these people is inspiring. Resilient as they may be however, they are starting to lose faith in the international community which has let them down time and time again.
We are asking APHEDA members to support our Gaza Emergency Humanitarian Appeal, which will contribute to the efforts of the MA'AN Development Centre, El Wafa Hospital and the Gaza Red Crescent Society.
Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA Chairperson Angelo Gavrielatos and Executive Officer Kate Lee recently visited APHEDA's projects in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon.