Slow reconstruction in Gaza exposes displaced Palestinians to harsh weather

Published: 6 March 2015 15:59 CET

By Hanne Sorine Sorensen, IFRC

Six months after a ceasefire was reached following the recent conflict in Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Strip continue to live under dire conditions, as almost no reconstruction has taken place since the end of the violent which destroyed or severely damaged 18,000 homes.

Almost 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza are still living in schools, makeshift shelters, tents or in the ruins of their old homes. These living conditions are neither suitable for long-term stay nor for tolerating the cold weather which has hit the area since January. The Palestine Red Crescent Society, with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF), is aiding vulnerable families in Gaza with relief and shelter assistance. Furthermore, the Red Crescent is conducting an awareness campaign to enhance knowledge on safe shelter, storm preparedness and first aid.

The needs are huge

Sitting on a chair in the remains of his house in Gaza City’s Al-Shujaea area, 38-year-old Sofian El Araer explains how he, his wife, and his seven children fled when the rocket fire started on 20 July 2014. Al-Shujaea is one of the areas which was hit hardest and witnessed most destruction during the conflict.

“We escaped and none of us was hurt, but I lost five relatives that night. We were housed in a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for a month,” said Sofian El Araer. “After that, I rented a building we could stay in, but I couldn’t pay the rent, so now we moved back to our house. What else can we do?”

He spreads out his hands towards what was once a house with 14 rooms, but which now has only one undamaged room where the family of nine sleep on the floor trying to keep themselves warm at night by lighting bonfires. The walls in all other rooms are gone.

“We have no gas, no money, no electricity and I have no job. My wife and children are crying and asking for things, but I can’t give them anything. But thank God we are still alive,” he said. Hhose dream for the future is simple. “I want to live in a normal house and be able to feed my children.”