Schools shelter Palestinian families displaced by violence in Gaza
By Sabine Dolan
NEW YORK, USA, 22 August 2006 – The Preparatory School for Boys in Rafah, southern Gaza, has become a temporary home for nearly 50 Palestinian families affected by ongoing hostilities.
Among the approximately 300 people who now live in this school, there are more than 100 children. Most of them, like 14-year-old Iman Jubara, have been exposed to continuous violence and trauma for several weeks.
“We’re afraid that the bullets will come near us,” says Iman. “Our house was destroyed by all the missiles.”
Fleeing from conflictThe families sheltering in Rafah fled the nearby village of Shoka, a poor agricultural community on the border with Israel that has come under heavy fire during hostilities that began nearly two months ago.
Shoka’s 14,000-strong community relies on farming for its livelihood, and some families forced out of their houses because of shelling have been camping in the fields to tend to their livestock.
Um Mohammed Jubara is a mother who fled Shoka with her children when their house came under fire. “We took the kids and kept them near us. They were scared,” she recalls. “We were huddled against the wall and kept the kids huddled against the wall so that splinters falling from the roof wouldn’t fall on the children.”
Search for alternative housing
Earlier this month, more than 3,000 people from Shoka sought temporary refuge at schools in the nearby towns of Rafah and Jabalia. Most have since received a relocation allowance through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA).
The assistance is needed to help families find alternative housing and vacate the schools in time for the start of the new school year, which begins in less than two weeks.
“UNRWA has been supporting the families in terms of shelter, food and also basic necessities,” says UNICEF’s Special Representative in the occupied Palestinian territory, Dan Rohrmann. “UNICEF has been helping in terms of providing recreational kits, toys and baby hygiene kits for families with small babies, as well as family kits for those families who have lost all their clothes.”
Mr. Rohrmann added that many of the displaced children show symptoms of acute stress. “They can’t sleep,” he explained. “They wet their beds and have difficulties concentrating.”