Saturday, January 17, 2009

Islamic Relief aid worker's diary in Gaza: Part 17

Delivering blankets to the homeless families in Gaza
(Pix: courtesy of Islamic Relief Worldwide)

In the 17th instalment of his diary, he describes trying to get urgent food supplies to people in need, while his own family are still sheltering from the violence in their home.

GAZA: 16 January

In the last hour, I have heard that 15 people have been killed and many more injured. Seven were killed when a missile hit a tent where people had gathered to mourn some victims of the attacks.

We are hearing that a ceasefire is coming, but the killing continues.

My sister and her family live a few hundred metres from the family home and yesterday she managed to get to our house with the children just before dusk - 14 members of the family stayed in two rooms.

We tried to find the safest rooms to stay in, away from the main road.

We don't have electricity so we had to make do with candles. I spent the night focusing on the candle flame, willing the night to pass as quickly as possible, and worrying that the tanks might reach our neighbourhood, as they were the closest they have been in the past 21 days of the attacks on Gaza.

My mind kept racing through the night, thinking about where I would take the family if the tanks entered our street. Where would we take shelter?

As I stared at the candle flame I realised that there was no point in asking myself these questions as there was nowhere for us to go.
"At night my children become hungry - one meal a day is not enough for them"

Asmaa, Gaza mother
Hundreds of families have fled the neighbourhood surrounding our home trying to find a place to shelter away from the shelling and bombing.

The sound of warplanes and shells and missiles have been haunting people for 21 long days and nights.

My 11-year-old niece, like many children in Gaza, is trying to be brave.
She told me that she wasn't scared by what was happening but when I asked her how she felt when she heard the sounds of war she told me she felt cold and the sounds made her tremble.

One meal

Today I was able to leave the house for a few hours and join Islamic Relief's emergency team to distribute 1,700 food parcels to exhausted and desperate people taking refuge in 12 shelters in Gaza City.

The number of homeless people keeps rising - many homes have been destroyed and those whose homes haven't been destroyed don't feel safe in them.

Thousands of civilians have fled the area where the attacks are taking place fearing for their lives, although many were reported to be still trapped in their homes or other shelters.

We also distributed 1,600 bread packs and 1,500 food parcels to displaced people in shelters in Rafah and Khan Younis.

The food parcels contain enough tins of fish, meat and vegetables to feed a family of eight for three weeks.

While distributing the food aid I met a young mother-of-five who told me that she was only able to provide her family with one meal a day since the attacks on Gaza started.

Asmaa looked exhausted but pleased when she received the food parcel.

"At night my children become hungry - one meal a day is not enough for them and they have to wait until the next day to eat some food," she said.

"I feel relieved that I have this food - it's very painful for me to know that my children are hungry."

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