Aid workers from the humanitarian aid agency CARE are warning of the colossal strain on medical services and hospitals in Gaza as the violence there continues. Hospitals are being used as places of refuge with people sleeping on the floors and corridors. The continuing bombardment is preventing urgent medical supplies from entering Gaza.
Medical personnel in Gaza report 788 deaths and more than 5,000 injuries, the vast majority of whom are civilians. 1.2 million people in Gaza currently have little or no access to water and 140,000 have been displaced from their homes with no safe place to seek refuge.
“Our colleagues on the ground report massive destruction and death. They tell of their hour-by-hour struggle to find a relatively safe space for their families. Those who go out to search for food or water could be targeted and shot,” says Rene Celaya, country director for CARE West Bank and Gaza. “It is imperative that the fighting stops and aid reaches the thousands of people in desperate need of basic supplies and urgent medical assistance. CARE calls for an immediate ceasefire to allow urgent medical care to reach the thousands of innocent civilians caught up in the crisis. We call on the international community to work with all parties to agree to durable solutions to the conflict.”
Ghada Al Kord, 28, coordinates safety and security for CARE staff in Gaza and has lived in Gaza her whole life. Ghada lives with her husband and 18-month-old daughter. She was pregnant during the previous conflict in Gaza in 2012 and is pregnant again under the threat of another military operation.
“There was an airstrike outside of our door. My husband and daughter had just been standing in that same place one minute before. Thank God they were not injured,” she says. “The next day I went to my sister’s. My niece answered the phone and it was a call from the IDF telling us to evacuate the house. In two minutes we were in the street with my nieces and nephews screaming and shouting. The place where I would have been sleeping was totally damaged.”
Ghada lost her brother to a drone strike six years ago, leaving his four children without a father.
“We are living between wars. There is no dignity. We are frustrated and we do not know when it will end,” Ghada says. “We just want to live in peace, not war. We just want to live like other people.”
CARE estimates that at least 107,000 children require direct and specialized psychosocial support to deal with the death of family members, injuries or the loss of their homes over the past two weeks. Along with child protection this psychosocial support is urgently required.
“Children have stopped eating and sleeping. Their health is starting to suffer. Skin conditions, infection and gastro-intestinal problems are increasing,” says Dr. Hassan Zebadin, who works with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) providing basic medical supplies to those currently caught in the conflict.
As soon as the security situation allows, CARE and PMRS plan to deploy two mobile health teams that can visit an average of 200 patients per day, providing basic health care to people living in communities affected by the on-going violence. The teams will include medical staff and a psychosocial worker to help traumatized families. The teams will focus on women’s health needs, particularly pre- and post-natal care for pregnant women and new mothers with infants.
About CARE in West Bank and Gaza:
CARE has been working in Israel, West Bank and Gaza since 1948. Today our programs focus on economic empowerment, including livelihoods and gender equality, in Gaza and the West Bank to assist the most vulnerable residents in meeting their basic and longer-term needs. With the current fighting, CARE has temporarily suspended its programs in Gaza until the security situation improves.
Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than six decades of experience delivering emergency aid during times of crisis. Our emergency responses focus on the needs of the most vulnerable populations, particularly girls and women. Last year CARE worked in 87 countries and reached more than 97 million people around the world. To learn more, visit www.care.org.
CARE has spokespeople available in Gaza and Jerusalem for comment.
Brian Feagans (Atlanta):