Gaza crisis: Six months on
During the 50-day conflict in Gaza six months ago, CARE and our partner, Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), set up three mobile health teams with funding from the UK Department for International Development.
These teams visited families affected by the conflict who were unable to get to hospital, managing to see an average of 300 patients per day. They consisted of two general practitioner doctors, one psychosocial worker, three community health workers or nurses, one physiotherapist and one women's health doctor.
We were also able to support nearly 16,000 people with our hygiene kits of essential supplies to help protect families against the spread of disease. Here are the stories of some of the people we worked with, in their own words.
My name is Um Ibrahim; I am a 32-year-old mother of nine traumatised children; our house was hit by two missiles; my husband is disabled; and his wheelchair was smashed.
Our neighbourhood in southern Gaza was completely cut off for two days, while our homes continued to be attacked. We were terrified when our house was also hit. We were left with only destroyed farms, dead animals and destruction as far as our eyes could see. My children have seen things nobody should see. There were people dying next to us, my uncle got hit right in the head...
How would you feel when this happens to your family? I just feel so tired.
What we needed most were running water, better sanitation, medicines and clothes. The shelter we lived in for one month had very unhealthy living conditions and diseases were spreading rapidly, so it was very important for us to receive these boxes to keep ourselves and our living area clean.
Now I can take better care of my family and help my children to grow up healthier...
But I do not want to raise my children for another war. I wish I could give my children the hope that one day their lives will be normal and that they will be safe.
With three boys and a girl at home, it was painful to leave them every day, not knowing what would happen to them or me. I knew I was doing the right thing but I was constantly aware of just how dangerous it was going out with the team.
It was very difficult to access the women, because we worked during times of ceasefire but also during war.
Often shelling and strikes would continue close to an area we would set up our mobile clinic and I would think about my own children and their safety.
During the 50 days of violence in Gaza, 23 health workers died and more than 80 were wounded during their work. Nobody was immune from danger and safety could not be guaranteed for anybody.
So many of the health facilities were damaged, overstretched and under-equipped, so mobile clinics were often the only way to reach affected communities. They enabled us to provide emergency services to some of those most in need, despite many obstacles in our way.
I am so proud that I was able to make a difference and help these women during their pregnancy in war.
I want to contribute to improving the health sector in Gaza at all levels; the supplies, the facilities, the clinics and hospitals. A lot needs to be done as the destruction is so great, and we, as Gazans, need to put ourselves behind this if we want to work towards a safer and healthy future.
I have nine children and their lives have been surrounded by war: in 2009, 2012 and last year, that was the worst. In the past, our small home had been damaged but my family and I had never been forced to leave it before.
We were among half a million other people in Gaza, who fled without knowing where to find safety.
We left against the will of my husband. He felt we should face our fate in our own neighbourhood. But after spending the whole night terrified, my husband and I hiding under the bed with our children clamped to us, I decided we should leave.
When we finally reached my sister-in-law's house in the west of Gaza city, we found already more than 200 people seeking shelter there. There simply was no place for me and my children to rest.
So, in the end, we were forced to go to a school shelter. It was terrible there. There were so many people and infections were spreading quickly because there was no sanitation.
My children started to change: their games started to imitate the violence they witnessed during the day, they began wetting the bed and my 10-year-old started stuttering.
I, too, began to get sick and I was so afraid for my unborn child. I was desperate. I urgently needed medicines and was enormously relieved when I finally found help through PMRS.
With them, I was able to receive check-ups, medicines and nutritional supplies to keep myself and my family healthy.
The team also gave me psychosocial support to help us deal with the trauma. It helped us cope with everything that was going on around us and I felt such relief that my baby was being looked after.
I still don't know what to expect of the future with my neighbourhood still in ruins. All I hope is that my newborn will never witness what my other children had to witness and that I can give all of my children a safe and healthy home.
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