Wrecked homes provide little warmth for Gazan families

West Bank and Gaza, January 23, 2015

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  • A mother and child in Khuzaa enjoy the warmth from a gas heater that Mercy Corps provided during the winter storm. All photos: Mercy Corps

A recent winter storm blanketed the Middle East with snow and brought freezing temperatures to a region where millions of people are not prepared with warm shelter and supplies.

Gaza was not left out — frigid temperatures, high winds and heavy rain pummeled the area, causing damage to homes and flooding streets.

The effects of the storm are another devastating blow to communities that suffered through last summer’s violence. During the conflict, many people’s homes and neighborhoods were partially or entirely destroyed.

In the aftermath, families have been left in homes without windows and doors, sheltering with relatives or neighbors, or living in makeshift caravans like the one in Khuzaa.

People in Khuzaa are living in the caravan village after being displaced by last summer’s conflict.

The Mercy Corps team has been out during the storm, reaching people and distributing blankets, mattresses, tarps and hygiene kits — all items that help families survive, especially in the unusual cold.

Warm blankets help families bundle up safely during the winter storm.

The team also distributed mattresses to cover cold floors and make living spaces more comfortable for displaced families.

In Khuzaa, where families forced from their homes are sheltering in a settlement of bare-bones trailers until their neighborhood can be repaired, gas heaters from Mercy Corps brought much-needed warmth.

"It's been very challenging...operating in the field during the storm and trying to secure the heaters in these difficult conditions," Emergency Response Manager Ahmad Hegazy explained. "However, seeing how grateful people were and knowing that we helped them survive the unbearable conditions they are living in during this cold was well worth it."

Despite the camp’s efforts, heavy rains caused flooding around the makeshift shelters.

These trailers are poorly insulated and not designed for inclement weather. People piled sandbags around the small shelters in an effort to keep the heavy rains at bay, but the camp still suffered flooding, making conditions even worse.

"These days are some of the worst days we have encountered," said Sahar, 40, when our team arrived at her caravan with a gas heater. "The caravan was like a fridge, and water was leaking inside making my kids even colder. All I need is to provide warmth for my kids."

Because electricity in the area is often only available for less than four hours a day, families were forced to huddle together for warmth or burn fires inside — causing harmful smoke. With a powerful gas heater inside the small caravan, families can now stay safe and healthy independent of electricity while they wait for warmer temperatures to arrive.

Inside the small shelters, one gas heater provides enough warmth for a whole family.

How you can help

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