Since the Jan. 18 ceasefire, some humanitarian goods and workers have entered Gaza. Hospitals and power plants are functioning at reduced levels, but basic needs — including food, shelter and access to clean water and sanitation — remain at critical levels. While the security situation has undoubtedly improved, the recovery and rehabilitation process in Gaza has been slowed by a lack of access to the kinds of humanitarian and commercial goods needed to rebuild.
Our team — based in Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza — is focused on three areas: humanitarian assistance, psychosocial support and emergency economic relief and development. Mobilizing and empowering marginalized youth is a priority within each area, and the singular focus of a separate program, Global Youth Connectivity.
Humanitarian Assistance for a Vulnerable Population
Mercy Corps was one of the first NGOs to independently transport goods into Gaza during the conflict, and to bring in medical items in partnership with our partner Reach Out to Asia (ROTA). With funding from USAID, ROTA , other private donors and individuals, to date Mercy Corps has transported and distributed more than $1 million of food, non-food items and medical supplies to the Gaza Strip. Mercy Corps continues responding to the needs in order to improve the well-being of thousands of vulnerable people in Gaza who suffered enormously, not only in the past six months, but also from the blockade of the past two years.
Community-Focused Psychosocial Support
Immediately after the conflict, Mercy Corps launched a comprehensive psychosocial program involving one-on-one treatment to traumatized youth and assistance to parents and caregivers. The program has reached more than 14,000 people in all. It is an expansion of an existing psychosocial support that we have offered to children in Gaza since July 2008. Through partnerships with the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) and the United Kingdom’ Department for International Development (DFID), Mercy Corps is opening community centers that provide psychosocial activities for children, sessions for adults and youth activities with an emphasis on community service.
Emergency Economic Relief and Continuing Development
We have resumed providing temporary jobs to members of the most economically vulnerable households. The program restarted in late January with more than 300 men and women earning a short-term income from jobs ranging from cleanup of rubble to food distribution.
Since 2005, Mercy Corps has worked in partnership with ECHO to create more than $5 million in cash-for-work opportunities that have benefited about 30,000 individuals in total. Before the 22-day conflict, Mercy Corps offered short-term jobs in clothes making, food production, and education.
We are also targeting youth for cash-for-training activities and subsidized apprenticeship opportunities, which will provide young people with marketable job skills and the experience needed to compete for jobs once the economy begins functioning again.
In April, Mercy Corps began a three year program funded by Qatar Charity that is funding additional cash-for-work activities in Rafah and southern Gaza, evolving over time to support entrepreneurship training and microenterprise. The program also expands Mercy Corps’ current youth global youth connectivity programs.
Global Youth Connectivity
During the conflict Mercy Corps received daily accounts through cell phones from some of the 600 Gazan youth participating in Mercy Corps' Global Youth Connectivity (GYC) program. These young leaders, wanting their voice to be heard and feel supported by the outside world, shared their accounts on the program's website and on mercycorps.org. Young Lebanese, Iraqis and Americans sent personal words of encouragement. Using online technologies, the program facilitates dialogue about global events with those directly affected, providing them with new sources of information and understanding. At the same time, these youth are also getting involved locally, organizing community service projects for those most in need in their own communities.
Our presence in Gaza dates to 2005, when we distributed much-needed medical supplies, food packages, cooking fuel, and kitchenware to families affected by border closures.