Very tense situation
"The situation remains very tense," says Laurent Palustran, HI Country Manager covering activity in Gaza.
"The bombings continue, and our teams continue to work. We have identified more and more needs from various assessments."
Over the past week, violence in Gaza has claimed over 200 lives and injured more than 1,400, according to the United Nations.
Immeasurable infrastructure damage has devastated hundreds of buildings and residences, leaving many of the 2 million inhabitants with their homes damaged or destroyed. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reports, there are currently over 48,000 internally displaced persons within Gaza. Amongst them, HI has identified over 250 people in need of rehabilitation.
"People have been wounded.These people have been operated on quickly, but there will be both short and long-term consequences from their injuries, particularly for those who will be living with disabilities after what has happened."
HI teams have already begun providing psychological support to those affected by the violence that has been raging for over a week in Gaza. We will soon be able to provide lasting rehabilitation care in an effort to prevent lifelong disability.
"There are psychological traumas that will remain,” Laurent explains. “That’s what it is important to provide mental health support. The population is experiencing collective trauma."
In response to the large number of internally displaced persons, 58 UNWRA schools have opened to welcome and provide shelter to those that have lost their homes or been forced to leave. However, with the ongoing threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, and with no vaccine currently available to the population, the situation risks an increase in positive cases.
Protection against Covid-19
"What we’re seeing is that people come to seek shelter, but they don’t have the materials to protect themselves against Covid-19," says Laurent.
"We’re talking about nearly 50,000 people in the 50-odd schools that have opened - that means nearly 1,000 people per school. People don’t wear masks and they are essentially on top of each other. There is a very high risk."
To meet some of the basic hygiene needs of vulnerable civilians, HI is preparing to distribute Infection Prevention and Control kits (IPC kits). These contain non-food essentials such as soap, disinfectants, hand sanitizer, gloves, shampoo, laundry detergent, toilet paper and female sanitary towels, among others, as well as preventative information regarding Covid-19.
Explosive remnants: a danger for civilians
Amidst recent international calls for ceasefire, without an end currently in sight, HI is emphasizing that even when the bombing eventually stops, dangers to civilians will remain.
Laurent says, “It is certainly possible that some of the rockets that were launched have not yet exploded, therefore it may indeed be the case that we also have unexploded remnants of war.” These pose particular danger to children, who are often attracted to such curious objects without knowing what they are.
HI staff on the ground report being shocked by the violence they see and hear on a daily basis. On Monday night, bombings fell next to the HI offices and guesthouses. Luckily, our staff are safe and continue working from residences throughout Gaza to respond to the ongoing crisis.