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Aid worker starts rebuilding lives - Diary of an aid worker in Gaza

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My colleague Elena Qleibo works in the Gaza Strip as a Food Security and Livelihood officer for Oxfam. She talks about her work in the Strip, as Oxfam starts an emergency response to reach thousands of families who were unable to get access to humanitarian aid during in the past three weeks.

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Gaza strip: Our emergency response has required a lot of work in a very unstable situation. One day the telephone system didn't work and the next day the bombardments were too intense to even step outside. While the fighting was at its peak, I could not leave my house and I could see the bombs falling on Gaza City. The feeling of helplessness was the worst thing for me. I could not go around and help people immediately. I focused all my energies to prepare the current emergency response, knowing that when the quiet comes Oxfam and our local partner organization could immediately reach thousands of families desperately in need for support.

I managed to stay in touch with the other NGOs and the UN World Food Programme. It was important to coordinate what each of us wanted to distribute while making sure we were providing items that people really need. We also asked the families if they thought our food parcels would meet their immediate needs.

Yesterday, we started distributing food parcels to 1,100 families. In the next few days we will have reached 3,200 families (more than 22,400 people) and we hope we will be able to distribute to many more families in the next weeks. Some families were completely cut off from humanitarian aid for weeks. They had to stay sheltered and when the daily lulls happened the fighting was still so intense that it was impossible for them to get out and get food.

Since few people have electricity we focus on food items like tinned food that require little or no cooking. With canned meat and tuna, sugar, sesame paste (halawa) and one kind of vegetable, families we help will be able to make their essential needs for a week.

I just met a family who lost everything. Their flat was destroyed in the north of Gaza and the family of seven is now staying with relatives. This is not the only story like this but it tells us about the extent of damage incurred by ordinary families. This family did not need humanitarian aid in the past, they were not rich but they managed. Now that they have lost everything they rely on us to provide food and water. They have joined the 80% of aid dependent people in the Gaza Strip.

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It's been a complicated and tough week but I'm so happy to see we are finally working and helping. I cannot tell you how eager those families were to see us start the food distribution.

Now the government of Israel and Hamas have each unilaterally announced ceasefires, we are hoping the situation will remain calm enough to let us work. The population of the Gaza Strip needs so much right now. There are food and medicine shortages, hospitals are struggling to tend to the thousands of wounded and so much of the Gaza Strip needs to be rebuilt. What is needed is a fair ceasefire that lasts so that the long recovery of the people here can really start.