Over the last few weeks, we’ve all been seeing horrifying images on our screens of non-stop bombings across the Gaza Strip. Whole families were wiped out, as civilians (including 33 children) bore the brunt of the attacks. This tiny strip of land, around only 24 miles long, is among the most densely populated areas in the world, with more than half its 1.7 million people under 25.
Even before the skies were raining bombs, life for Gaza’s youth has been extremely difficult. Just getting clean water, basic food, medical treatment and even getting children to school has for years become a major worry for many families. Along with the UN agency UNWRA and other NGOs, Interpal helps to support Palestinians, and over the last weeks have been providing emergency relief aid to the victims of atrocities across the Gaza Strip.
Like most relief aid NGOs, Interpal strongly condemned the violence, and has welcomed the recent ceasefire. Interpal’s chairman, Ibrahim Hewitt, recently said, ‘The ceasefire is good news, but the hardship enveloping the Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip has not ended.’
It is fair to say that the Gaza Strip is facing a crisis that impacts everybody living there. The recent attacks have only made things worse. Innocent children and families were caught from all sides with no shelters to safely hide in.
Tens of thousands fled their homes in search of somewhere safe, but not everyone was lucky. Take the case of the much-reported airstrike on the Dalou family home. Of the ten family members killed in the strike, five were children. The father of four of the children was also killed, along with four women.
Other families only just escaped similar fates. Interpal provided 61 year old Sulaiman Saleh with emergency relief, whose family home was hit by an Israeli airstrike. All 14 members of his family were inside at the time.
Miraculously, Sulaiman and his family survived, though not without serious fractures, traumas and injuries. After paramedics rescued the family from the rubble of their home, Sulaiman’s brother gave them a place to stay, as everything they owned was destroyed.
Interpal and the local health authorities made an emergency medical assessment of Sulaiman, who suffered the worst injuries. Interpal field staff provided him with a wheelchair, a specialised hospital bed to aid his recovery, and an emergency relief package.
Sulaiman’s son was still confused about what happened when the missile struck the house. His grandchildren Omar (11 months old) and Lana (2 years old) each received serious injuries, but should make full recoveries as the ceasefire holds.
The blast affected three generations of the Saleh family, and the psychological impact of the trauma will continue well after the injuries have healed and the news teams cover crises elsewhere.
During a time when the major powers of the world are shifting and the changes brought about by the Arab Spring will be felt across the region, the struggle of the Palestinian youth remains an important issue. In the coming days, we will see whether Palestine will be given non-member statehood status at the UN. This could radically change how Palestine is perceived in the world. Meanwhile, Saleh and his family struggle to cope with the wreckage of their home and their lives.
Originally posted on online magazine www.fifteen21.com, pp.42-43 of Fifteen21 – Issue 9