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Gaza crisis: So many people have lost everything

08 Aug 2014

A HelpAge staff member in Gaza. (c) HelpAge InternationalI crossed into Gaza on Wednesday and visited one of the worst hit areas – Shejaiya, in Gaza City – where relatives of our Security and Logistics Officer, Muaid, live.

He and his wife hosted 36 family members in their home who had fled the conflict. They only returned today and fortunately, their house is still standing. But there are whole areas that have been completely destroyed; no houses left, just rubble and people's clothes.

You can smell death in the air and imagine that there are many dead bodies under the rubble. So many people have lost everything: their relatives; their homes; their belongings; everything.

In shock and confused

Since the ceasefire began on Wednesday people have started to pick up their lives again; we saw people going to market and children playing in the streets. But they are in shock and confused. And they are not sure how long the ceasefire will last, so they are being very careful. Everyone is listening to the news, eager to know what is happening.

People told us how they had to flee their homes in the middle of the night in the pitch black and they had no idea where to go. Many of them found shelter elsewhere with their families and friends. Some of them had to stay behind.

I went to our office in Gaza city and met the staff members that have returned to work. I asked them all how they felt. Everyone is different. Some of them hide their feelings. Others can't. Thankfully none of them lost their lives, but three staff members have lost close family members and 20 relatives in total. They are all determined to do what they can to help the older people we work with and new ones affected by the crisis. But many of them are struggling to keep themselves and their families safe.

Reaching the most vulnerable

We have been in contact with the Older People's Committees throughout. The heads of these committees have been contacting all their members to see if they are OK and reporting back to us. They are really dynamic and do what they can to make sure that older people's needs in their communities are met.

We have trained volunteers to carry out assessments in order to target the most vulnerable, provide basic first aid and psycho-social assistance, depending on their level of experience. They are also providing cash for food, water and medical treatment and are helping to transport the seriously ill to hospital.

The older people we have spoken to said they are really struggling to be able to afford food, water and medicine and sometimes they have to make choices on what to do without. We are also providing hygiene items such as soap and washing powder, cooking pots, wheelchairs and incontinence pads.

Huge healthcare needs

There have been many incidences of scabies as people haven't been able to wash and lots of cases of diarrhoea as people don't have access to clean drinking water. The NGOs who specialise in providing clean water have a tough task ahead.

There are also huge health needs as the primary healthcare is no longer functioning, many of the health workers have been killed and there are not enough medicines. We will have to start our training of primary healthcare workers from scratch.

We all have so much to do. The older people, like everyone, have suffered so much and we urgently need to help them.

How you can help

In the UK:

If you are in the UK, please donate to our sister organisation, Age International:

  • Go to the Age International website.
  • Call 0800 032 0699 on Mon-Fri 9am-5pm or donate over the counter at any high street bank or post office, or send a cheque.
  • Text URGENT to 70004 to donate GBP 5*.

Outside the UK:

If you are outside the UK, you can donate directly to HelpAge International via our website.

*Age International, who is a DEC member, fundraises on behalf of HelpAge International in the UK. Text Costs £5.00 plus network charge. Age International receives 100% of your £5 donation. Obtain bill payers permission. Call 0800 032 0699 for more information. ‘Age International’ is a restricted fund of Age UK (charity no.1128267) set up to support the work of Age International (charity no.1128267-8)’

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Sonja van Osch
Job title: Country Director, occupied Palestinian territ

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.