THE BLOG

Gaza Is a Victim Once Again

It's more than a month now that most Gazans have had no or little electricity to pump clean drinking water into their homes, do the family laundry, heat their homes as the cold of winter sets in. What's sad about this fact is it is not the first time.

Two years ago, I wrote the following observation:

Six out of ten Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank live below the poverty line, according to UN statistics, making it difficult for families to purchase nutritious foods in the market. After years of closure, frustrated farmers in Gaza are unable to produce much in their fields because of the lack of seeds and fertilizer that don't get through to them. World Health Organization statistics show that nearly four out of ten children under five in Gaza are suffering from anemia and malnutrition.

Sadly, the conditions are still valid today, even worse.

Gaza is home to 1.7 million men, women and children, squeezed into an area just about twice the size of Washington, D.C. Its border with Israel mostly has been sealed since 2007 with only limited supplies allowed entry. Since July, the border with Egypt has been shut tight too. That closure resulted from the political turmoil in Egypt that also spurred the military to destroy hundreds of tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border that were used to bring in essentials like food and household supplies and fuel to keep the place running.

Seven out of ten families in Gaza must rely on foreign charity to eat. Only one out of four families has running water every day and only for a limited number of hours. One third of essential medicines are out of stock and patients needing special care in Egypt cannot leave Gaza because of border closures and travel restrictions.

On the first of November, Gaza's only power plant shut down for lack of fuel. That shortage means blackouts for more than half of Gaza's families, not enough power for generators to keep refrigerators operating or to pump drinking water into hundreds of Gaza homes. There is little or no gas for cooking. Delivery trucks now line up for hours to fill just a quarter of a tank of gas.

The border closures and tunnel destruction also have led to shortages of food and basic supplies in Gaza's markets. What is available is priced beyond the means of many impoverished families who have little or no income in a job market where the unemployment rate surpasses 30 percent. The border closures also mean very few construction materials are getting into Gaza, putting most building projects on hold and more than 15,000 Gazans were laid off in a matter of weeks.

International NGOs like ANERA that work in Gaza try to ease the suffering. We deliver shipments of donated critical medicines to replenish the stocks of hospitals and clinics. We have turned to home garden projects -- our 'Victory" gardens -- to help families cope with food insecurity. With the supply of a greenhouse, seeds and training, families have been able to turn a small piece of land around their homes into a bountiful garden of vegetables that can nourish the family and potentially provide a source of income. But it is not enough to sustain thousands of families forever.

Sadly, these efforts are not enough to eradicate hunger and long-term malnutrition. More needs to be done. At a time of the year when we pause to give thanks for what we have, we need to consider how we can help those who have a lot less.