Maysara, child welfare worker for Islamic Relief Gaza, reports on the devastating impact of the conflict upon families and vulnerable children.

My cousin, Raghda, fled her house in Rafah shortly after the conflict began. Rafah is in the South, close to the border, and targeted extensively. She and her children are now living with her parents in the middle of the Gaza Strip, alongside her single brother, and a married brother with his family-of-five.

She hoped that the recently-built house would offer her family better protection, but she now believes there is no safe place in Gaza.

A rocket took her son’s leg

A rocket hit the house. It left her injured, and cost her son, Abed, his leg. Evacuating during an electricity blackout was very difficult, especially for those that were injured and her disabled nephew. Raghda wrapped her son’s leg in a bedsheet before they left. Her brother carried his disabled child, and her brother led his blind father out of the house.

Abed was carried to hospital, but they could not treat him there as it had been bombed the same day. The family took him to Al Shifa Hospital, where surgeons operated to remove another five inches above his knee.

He thanks God he lost his sight before seeing this day

At 20-years old, in just minutes, the life of Abed had changed forever. Raghda’s father is also finding it hard. Everything he worked for throughout his life was destroyed, and he now says he thanks God that he had lost his eyesight before seeing this day.

My sister, Manar, works for the UNRWA. She works in schools where thousands of Palestinians are now seeking shelter. But the shelters are not safe from the fighting – dozens of people, including children and UN staff, have recently died in UN shelters. When I heard the news, I phoned my sister straightaway.

When she answered, I thought she had been injured, because she could barely speak. Haltingly, she recounted what had happened to her in one of the shelters in the Shejaeya neighbourhood.

“Please let me say goodbye”

“I came out of the UNRWA vehicle,” she said. “A pretty young girl came over to me, took my hand and said ‘Oh aunty, your cars are not targeted, are they?’ When I told her that they weren’t, she asked me to take her to see her mother.

“I said yes, and where was her mother? She told me, ‘I’ve hidden her under a tree with my sister. Shrapnel hit her in the head and she passed away.

‘We dragged her under the tree so that the house will not fall on her, and we covered her. But I didn’t have time to say goodbye. Please let me bid her farewell.’

“I couldn’t say a word. I saw and heard many of these stories. Our children are going through experiences that no child should have to bear.”

Over 1,300 Palestinians – including women and children – have died so far in this brutal conflict. Islamic Relief, which set up its Gaza office in 1998, has been responding to the deepening humanitarian crisis since the fighting began.

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