Interview with Saaed Rafiq Al Madhoun, aged 31, Program Officer, CARE International, West Bank & Gaza
What is your normal job for CARE? How does it help people living in poverty?
I work as a Programme Officer for CARE, I also have security and logistical responsibilities for the Gaza office. My role involves helping and supporting the vulnerable households at Gaza, increasing their food security and increasing their livelihood.
Can you describe what it is like for you and your family during the strikes?
It was like an earthquake - several consecutive air strikes shook the house up and down. The house was like a piece of paper swinging in the air.
How is the intensity compared to previous crises? What is the scale of destruction?
It was Monday, July 6, 2014 at around 11:30 p.m. My wife and kids were sleeping at my house and the darkness was surrounding us as the electricity was cut off. It was an unpredictable night, full of the fear of the unknown.
Suddenly it was like an earthquake - several consecutive air strikes shook the house up and down.
The kids and my wife woke up, running in all directions, seeking to escape the chaos of the airstrikes. It was uncontrollable panic everywhere.
Memories have been flashing back with every single explosion in Gaza of the previous two military operations in recent years.
Explosions and bombs surrounded my house and black smoke clearly showed in the sky. It was very difficult to sleep during the nights, I slept for less than 30 minutes during one of the nights due to the explosions. We are often awoken by the very high heavy sounds of bombs.
We decided to stay in the house as it seems to me that there is no safe area in Gaza, especially after watching the television images of unimaginable destruction of houses under the civilians.
The electricity cuts mean I was unable to charge my mobile phone and so we were cut off from communicating with my extended family, friends and colleagues and we have faced water shortages as the water pumps also operated by electricity.
What are your key concerns for the civilians in Gaza?
The situation is very hard, and terrible for all civilians in Gaza. Gazan people were already suffering due to the bad economic situation, the electricity black outs, closure of the crossings, and the limitation on commodity items entering Gaza.
This latest attack has added to very bad humanitarian situation, especially the unimaginable destruction of houses and killing of civilians, including children, women and elderly people.
I was very worried about my family, colleagues and friends. I have one boy, he is three-years-old and one girl who is just five months. My boy comes close to me and his mother whenever he hears a plane or bomb and says: “I am afraid”.
The noise is very terrible, I have noticed that my boy closes his ears with his fingers each time he hears the explosions or feels the house shaking as a result of the airstrikes - some of which are very close to our house.
What should CARE’s priorities be in responding?
I think the top priority is to provide health care and medical supplies as this is the most urgent and biggest need in Gaza. Psycho-social support for the kids is also essential for the children of Gaza.
Are you concerned about the on-going psychological affects on children? How do they cope? Are they going to school?
Yes, this is very important as many children needs psychological support and stress free sessions especially during the summer time when it's the time of school holidays. Children will need to be supported psychologically before they get back to school on September.
Has the violence affected your ability to observe Ramadan as you would normally?
This Ramadan is the worst Ramadan in my life as we are not feeling comfortable and happy. During the break of the fast, we were hearing explosions. We didn’t get a chance to pray in peace or to enjoy time with my family. Ramadan is a special month for all Muslims, but in Gaza right now it is full of explosions and bombs. I didn’t get a chance to visit my sisters, aunts and uncles as I do usually during Ramadan month.
What are your hopes for the future?
My hopes for the future are to live in peace, with not more deaths and no restrictions on movements.
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