One year after the outbreak of fighting between Israel and Palestinians on July 8, 2014, explosive remnants of war such as artillery shells and mortars, grenades, bombs, and rockets still endanger the lives of civilians in Gaza.
According to the United Nations Mine Action Service, at least 4,500 explosive devices remain buried under the rubble of homes and infrastructure destroyed during the 50-day conflict. Handicap International immediately supplied aid to the most vulnerable individuals and, since March, has organized risk education sessions about explosive remnants of war to prevent more people falling victims to these weapons.
“Residents are still being killed and injured by explosive remnants left behind after the end of hostilities last summer,” explains Guillaume Zerr, the head of Handicap International’s mission in the Palestinian Territories. “They are scattered across the city, and make even the smallest journey and particularly construction work in the Gaza Strip very dangerous. It has paralyzed an entire population. It’s very important to educate people about the risk from explosive remnants of war, and to teach them best practices that can save the lives of people living in Gaza.”
Handicap International has conducted nearly 700 risk education sessions for more than 5,000 adults and children since March. The organization also assesses damaged or destroyed buildings to determine the level of weapons pollution, if at all, as well as the type of risks posed by any explosive weapons. If necessary, following the inspection, civil engineering teams intervene to clear the rubble, or demining teams are called in to neutralize explosive remnants of war.
During the six months immediately following the conflict, Handicap International and its four local partners also organized 28,000 rehabilitation sessions for more than 4,800 people. Nearly 6,400 people have been directed towards services adapted to their needs, and dispensed by other organizations. Handicap International has also distributed 2,500 mobility aids, such as crutches and wheelchairs, and 4,000 non-food items, such as blankets and hygiene kits. Staff have provided psychological support to more than 2,000 people.
Handicap International: working in Gaza since 1996
Handicap International has been worked in the Palestinian Territories since 1996. Ten mobile teams and five static teams cover the Gaza Strip’s five governorates. The teams include physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, social workers and psychologists. In 2014, these teams helped 3,200 vulnerable people access health services; provided 1,000 people with psychosocial support; and organized 5,700 rehabilitation sessions.
 An estimated 2,500 explosive devices had already been collected.