Floods and cold hit the most vulnerable in Gaza : Red Cross Report Say

Gaza /PNN/

Having to live with the compounding effects of torrential rain and cold, the people of Gaza face the coming weeks with large uncertainty.

Like many Gazans, Samarat, 29, from al-Zaitoun neighborhood, finds herself with little capacity to cope during the winter. Samarat, her 40-year-old husband Baker, and their seven children live in a small house that was given to them as a donation. “This is what my children call home. We used to live in a rented flat, but my husband couldn’t cover the rent anymore. So, the owner kicked us out,” she says.

The neighborhood’s children dodging rainwater puddles in the streets of al-Zaitoun neighborhood.

Four rounds of major hostilities over the past decade and a half have taken a heavy toll on the delivery of essential services in Gaza.

Between the escalation in May 2021, damaged and destroyed infrastructure, and restrictions on the entry of goods, thousands of people in Gaza struggle to make a living. Now, imagine all this combined with unprecedented levels of rainfall.

Samarat and Baker’s family sitting around a fire to get warm in the cold weather

“Winter has become a nightmare for us. We all sleep in one room: my husband; my daughters, Hala (12), Ghalia (10), Rimas (6), and Merna (4); and my sons, Saqer (11), Mohammed (9), and Siraj (3),” says Samarat. She adds, “when it rains, the roof starts to leak. I spend the whole night changing the wet covers to keep my children warm.

We can’t afford heating the room. So, we burn wood instead. I’m always worried the wood might cause a fire in the room. I can’t fall asleep because I don’t want to lose my children”.

Baker lights a fire and holds his son, Siraj, as the family sits around the fire to get warm

Samarat’s husband, Baker, owns a donkey cart. He helps people deliver vegetables from the market to their homes in exchange for little money.

The income of the family doesn’t exceed 50 shekels (15 USD) a month. They can’t afford electricity or cooking gas. Baker even had to sell the refrigerator and oven. Wood-fire is the only means left for them to cook, shower, and keep the children warm. “Most of the food we have at home is donated either by aid organizations or the neighbors,” adds Samarat.

Samarat’s children standing in front of their house in al-Zaitoun neighborhood in Gaza City.

The children are good students. Hala wants to become a lawyer and Rimas likes mathematics and wants to become an engineer.

However, every day they return home not wanting to go back to school again. “My children think less of themselves compared to their classmates because they rarely get any pocket money,” says Samarat. She adds, “I’m tired. All I hope for is a decent future for my children”.

Hala is standing in front of her house as schools close because of the cold weather

“The heavy rain and cold weather are another burden people in Gaza have to deal with today. The lack of long-term solutions and improvements leads to frustration and a sense of hopelessness among the population. People need a glimmer of hope.

They need a future to look forward to,” says Mirjam Lea Mueller, Head of Sub-Delegation at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza. She adds, “the complicated and often lengthy process of importing goods into Gaza poses challenges to the effective functioning of essential infrastructure.

We welcome the recent steps taken by the Israeli authorities to ease the process and hope this will continue to ensure the provision of essential services, such as water, wastewater management, and power supply in the Gaza Strip. People deserve to live in dignity, and their basic needs must be met”.

A municipality worker opens sewer covers in one of Gaza’s streets to prevent flooding by heavy rainfall

Gaza has been witnessing flooded homes and streets since the beginning of winter in 2021 and 2022.

The lack of proper infrastructure makes it worse for Gazans. Limited power supply and damaged sewage and drainage networks exacerbate the threat of heavy rainfall on Gazans and put them under a lot of pressure daily.

Movement is difficult during the winter because of failing infrastructure

To help alleviate the suffering of Gazans during the winter, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), with the support of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners, has assisted around 500 households with emergency relief supplies, including kitchen sets, mattresses, blankets, heaters, plastic sheets, and tarpaulins.

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