RELIEF that the latest truce in Gaza appears to be holding is
matched by the growing realisation that tending to the bereaved,
injured, and homeless, and rebuilding homes and infrastructure,
still represents huge challenges.
About 2100 Palestinians were killed in the latest conflict,
including at least 1400 civilians, of whom 490 were children.
Israeli casualties stand at 67 killed, including 64 soldiers.
Some 10,200 Palestinians have been injured, about half of them
women and children. In addition to the human cost, 16 hospitals, 45
clinics, and 137 schools were damaged.
A statement from al-Ahli Hospital, Gaza, at the weekend, said
that there was a "great need to provide hygiene and cleaning kits
for displaced families". Then there was the question of
psychosocial care that hundreds of people would require - plus the
need to hire new staff for at least a one-year period, to help cope
with all the extra services. Al-Ahli desperately needs more funding
to meet these challenges (www.j-diocese.org).
Although thousands of Palestinians have left temporary shelters,
many will have to wait years before they can live in permanent
accommodation. Shelter Cluster, an international organisation,
reports that it will take 20 years to rebuild the housing stock in
the Gaza Strip.
Some estimates put the cost of rebuilding Gaza at about £6
The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs
(OCHA) says that Egypt and Norway have "raised the possibility of
convening a Gaza donors' conference at some point next month, but
no firm arrangements have been made".
Efforts to re-establish anything like normal life are also being
hindered by severe water and electricity shortages. OCHA reports
that public services in Gaza were already over-stretched before the
fighting began, and were then "placed under extreme strain during
the conflict. Water and electricity networks were damaged, and
Gaza's only power plant shut down after an Israeli airstrike on 29
July. Necessary repairs and maintenance could not take place during
At least 14 Palestinians working in the basic-services sector
were killed in Israeli attacks. Now, with repairs under way, power
cuts still continue for 18 hours a day on average.
Employment, scarce for many years, has been further hit by the
recent violence. A Christian Aid partner in Gaza, the Agricultural
Development Association, estimates that the conflict has cost the
agricultural and fisheries sectors about £60 million, resulting in
more than 8700 families' losing their means of income.
The Association believes that 3670 acres of land used for fruit
and vegetable production have been damaged or destroyed, and
farmers have lost more than 316,000 head of livestock. The
programme officer at Christian Aid, Madeleine McGivern, said that
there was an urgent need to help Gazans "build back their
livelihoods, and earn money to feed their families. . . They need
their land and boats repaired as quickly as possible"
The response in the UK to Christian Aid's Gaza Crisis appeal,
launched more than a month ago, has topped £1 million. The
organisation's programme man-ager, Hanan Elmasu, said that the
"generosity of the British public" had enabled Christian Aid part-
ners to provide urgent health- care to more than 18,000 people;
clean water to 128,000; and food to 4600.
"The destruction and devastation witnessed in the past seven
weeks has been unprecedented," Ms Elmasu said, and "unparalleled
support" would be required "to rebuild lives free from fear and
Gratitude to those who had supported the Palestinians of Gaza in
prayer during the recent fighting was expressed by the Roman
Catholic parish priest of Gaza, Fr Jorge Hernandez, after a meeting
last Friday with Pope Francis.
Fr Hernandez said that his parishioners were aware, during their
services, that prayers were being said for them: "I want to take
this opportunity to say thank you, and God bless you."