It’s exactly six months since Israel's shelling of Gaza ended. Thanks to donations to ActionAid through the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal we're still helping women and children like Ghada and Mahmood to recover from the trauma and rebuild their lives.
The damage and destruction caused by 50 days of conflict between 7 July and 26 August 2014 was unprecedented in the long history of struggle between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories:
- 2,205 Palestinians (1,483 civilians) and 71 Israelis (4 civilians) were killed.
- More than a quarter of all civilian deaths were students.
- An estimated 14,000 homes were destroyed.
- Around half a million Palestinians were displaced and 108,000 are still homeless.
Behind the statistics are people’s stories.
Helping children overcome the trauma
Mahmoud, 10, is one of thousands of children whose lives have been torn apart. His house has been reduced to rubble. Friends killed. All his possessions destroyed.The only thing he managed to rescue was his guitar, which, though partly broken, is now his only comfort: “I like to play the guitar because music takes you away from life.”
Mahmood started playing the guitar five years ago when he was given it as a fifth birthday present. He wants to be a musician when he grows up, just like his hero Mohammed Assaf who won Arab Idol.
Though the shelling ended six months ago, for children like Mahmoud the trauma of their experiences will stay with them for years to come.
That’s why we’re helping children like Mahmood to cope with their experiences. We’ve given trauma care to 375 children, through counselling, art and drama. And we’ve supplied much needed medicines to health clinics.
Rebuilding women’s lives in Gaza
We’ve also been helping women rebuild their livelihoods.
Ghada Abdelaziz Wahden, 36, told us that the only precious thing she has left in life is her baby daughter, Lianne, who was two months old at the time of the shelling: “As soon as my house was hit, she was the first and only thing I took.”
When we met Ghada she was living in a school and desperately needed food for herself and milk and clothes for Lianne. Her family’s only source of income was farming a small plot of land but it was completely destroyed.
As well as supporting families with food and basic items such as soap, blankets and mattresses we’re also helping women build new livelihoods so they can support themselves and their families in the long term.
For example, we’ve supported women like Ghada to start poultry farms. A £225 starter kit supplies 10 chickens, one rooster and cages and fodder for three months. This not only provides much needed protein for the family but a stable income of about £140 a year.
Encouraging peace and an end to the Israel Gaza conflict
While we continue to help the people of Gaza to recover and rebuild, what they need more than anything is peace. But there will be no long term peace when half the people of Gaza go hungry and when 80 per cent are reliant on aid.
What’s needed is a political settlement between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The international community must help all sides address the root causes of the conflict.
Most importantly, there must be an end to the Israeli blockade that has existed since 2007 which stops the free movement of people and goods, making poverty even worse.