Islamic Relief aid worker Hatem Shurrub reports on the aftermath of the devastating fighting in Gaza.

The fighting in Gaza is over. But its impact is profound and lasting. As part of my work with Islamic Relief, I’ve been visiting the most affected areas to support our teams in reaching out to people, and to determine how best we can help them to revive their shattered lives.

On my way to Shujaeya, east of Gaza City, along the road you see streets lined with damaged or collapsed homes. Sewage runs in the street. You see desperate mothers sitting at the gates of damaged homes, and children trying to pull out some of their toys from under the rubble. It’s dangerous, but such an innocent search distracts them from thinking of the devastation all around.

Devastation on a dizzying scale

In some parts of Shujaeya, you don’t know where a street was or where were homes. It’s all damaged and all mixed up: rubble with papers, trees with sand, and dirty water, floor tiles and broken cars everywhere. The scale of the devastation made me dizzy.

The children stopped to ask how they could help me, and to tell me which houses were theirs. They were very helpful, Mashallah! One of the children saw my Islamic Relief vest, and told me, “This logo was on a water tank at my home.”

His name is Muhannad, and he is supported by our orphan sponsorship scheme. We also provided his family with water tanks and filters, so they had drinking water at home. The water tank was hit by a shell, or shrapnel – Muhannad didn’t know which – and there is no safe water at home now.

Another child, Mohammed, joined our orphan sponsorship scheme after his father died some time ago. In the recent crisis, he lost his mother and sister. He was injured, and so was his sister. His home was severely damaged.

I am sad to witness this suffering

Thousands of facilities and buildings either partially or totally destroyed. As well as homes, public facilities, schools and infrastructure have been devastated. Looking at my city, I am sad to see the suffering of human beings, who have very limited access to electricity, water and even food.

This fighting came after eight years of blockade and two wars, in 2008 and 2012. It has made the lives of my beloved people in Gaza so very much harder.

Personally, I feel lucky that I have survived three conflicts like this. The intensity of the last one made me feel that death is too close to my family and me. Like the rest of the population of Gaza, the trauma cuts deep. It will take a long time to recover from the fear in which we lived.

51 days of fighting and fear

At the same time, my colleagues and I are responsible for taking care of our own families, and for other families that have suffered. I am proud that I worked with Islamic Relief throughout the tough days, delivering much-needed aid and documenting the work we have done. We helped tens of thousands of people to survive 51 days of fighting and fear. We provided urgent assistance for displaced people – including food, hygiene kits and clothing. We also delivered urgent medicine for hospitals, helping to save lives.

In the Gaza Strip today, there are at least 2,000 newly orphaned children that need the lifeline of sponsorship. We have at least 1,000 orphaned children already on the scheme, who have had friends or relatives die, have lost their homes, or have witnessed violence.

An Islamic Relief aid worker surveys the ruins of a home in Gaza.

An Islamic Relief aid worker surveys the ruins of a home in Gaza.

Rebuilding futures with Islamic Relief

As we have done before, Islamic Relief will continue to support vulnerable children here in Gaza. We will help restore damaged schools, health, water and sanitation facilities. We will work with fishermen, farmers, and owners of small businesses to help them restore their livelihoods. In the coming years, so much needs to be done.

I’m hopeful that fighting will not happen again, so the exhausted people of Gaza can live their lives without worrying about meeting even their most basic needs. I pray that we will no longer fear for the future of our children.

Please continue to support our vital work in Gaza, as we help its people to rebuild their lives and communities. Donate to our Palestine Emergency Appeal today.

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