After floods in Gaza, critical supplies help children recover and return to school
By Sajy Elmughanni
Following severe flooding in Gaza, UNICEF is supporting relief efforts for thousands of families who were driven from their homes and lost their possessions.
GAZA, State of Palestine, 21 January 2014 – In December, powerful thunderstorms and four days of torrential rain hit Gaza. Hundreds of families were stranded in their homes, inundated by rising waters, while others were forced to abandon their houses and seek safety on higher ground.
The flooding was so severe that many houses could no longer be accessed on foot, and some 10,000 people had to be evacuated to temporary shelters and relatives’ homes across Gaza.
For 9-year-old Anas Al-Jadba, what started as a regular family dinner turned into a frightening experience as he and his family had to be rescued from their flooded home late in the night.
“We have lost all our belongings,” Anas says. “I saw my clothes and books floating away in floodwater.”
It has been a month since the storm ended, but its effects still linger. Anas lives with his family of eight in a single bedroom at his grandparents’ home.
He recently visited the family’s flood-damaged house, which is still uninhabitable.
“It was awful and smelled like sewage,” he says. “There was no running water and no electricity.”
To help with relief efforts, UNICEF support, made possible by funding from the Bank of Palestine, has reached out to affected children and their families with essential hygiene supplies and children’s clothing to protect their health and to keep them warm.
Today, Anas is back at school, one of the many students who lost everything to the floods. In cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Higher education, and with funds from the Government of Japan, UNICEF has distributed school bags with stationery supplies such as pens and notebooks to 3,000 children across the coastal enclave.
“This distribution comes to restore the sense of normalcy in the lives of children who were directly affected by the storm,” says Pernille Ironside, Chief of the UNICEF Field Office in Gaza. “Children should feel that education must continue no matter what the circumstances are. This is especially important, as life was already dire before the flood.”
Densely populated Gaza is currently affected by one of the most serious energy crises in recent years. Access to safe drinking water also remains a concern in the coastal enclave, where half the population is under 18.