Mercy Corps continues humanitarian assistance in Gaza

West Bank and Gaza, February 10, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mirjam Hendrikse/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Young Gazan boys steer a horse cart carrying a water tank, provided by Mercy Corps' relief program. Photo: Mirjam Hendrikse/Mercy Corps

Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses is the title of the latest report on Gaza, one year after Operation Cast Lead, the three-month military conflict between Israel and Hamas. It was published by a range of international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), including Mercy Corps.

I am reading the report after another day of food and non-food distributions in Gaza. This week, Mercy Corps is distributing livelihood packages in Khan Younis, the southern part of the Gaza Strip, with funding from ARD and USAID. Last week, more than 750 families received packages in east Gaza. Next week, the same number of packages will be distributed in the northern area. After the final distributions, at least 2,450 Gazans will have received three bags of food and a carton of goods to support their often-large families.

But it is just a drop in the ocean. There are 2.4 million people in the Gaza Strip, of which many are in need. Besides, the food packages are expected to last a family only between two weeks and a month.

The blockade, imposed since 2007, has significantly reduced the volume and range of goods coming into Gaza. The shops are only selling a limited number of products and what is available is expensive. Not everybody can buy these items, especially not the hundreds of thousands of families who lost their jobs due to the damage done to the private sector in January. It happens almost daily, that I am being asked to bring things from the West Bank. The requests vary: from food, to medicine, to cosmetics, to spare parts for cars.

Since Operation Cast Lead, Mercy Corps has distributed a large number of food and non-food items such as rice, sugar, pasta, olive oil and burgul, kitchen utensils and hygiene products, as well as blankets, children’s toys and water tanks. At least 10,000 families throughout Gaza have benefitted from this support. It was hoped that by now, this type of humanitarian assistance would not be necessary anymore. Unfortunately the opposite is true.

The drive from today’s distribution site in Khan Younis to Mercy Corps’ office in Gaza City took only 30 minutes. In that time, I spotted at least five places were other (international) organizations were distributing much-needed goods to Gazan families. Flour and rice mostly; basic items that everybody should have in their house. Still, when talking to men and women in Khan Younis, people seemed most happy with the kitchenware and toys for their children that they received.

One way or another, it is a relief to see all these organizations working towards to same goal: reducing the suffering of the people of Gaza. Whether it is through the distribution of goods, or the publication of a report to urge the larger international community to take action as well.