Thursday August 27, 2020

Islamic Relief has been operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 1998, providing humanitarian support to communities affected profoundly by 53 years of occupation and long periods of economic blockade.

The ongoing impact of occupation, blockades and periodic escalations in violence have had a devastating impact on infrastructure and livelihoods in Gaza and the West Bank, taking an enormous toll on the physical and mental wellbeing of Palestinians. In a total population of two million, a staggering 70% of people in Gaza under 30 are unemployed, 53% of the population live below the poverty line and 80% rely on outside aid to survive.

For the past 22 years, Islamic Relief has been a lifeline for Palestinians, providing support through their daily struggles for survival, delivering lifesaving aid in emergencies and giving families hope for a better future.

In 2008, within hours of the start of the 22-day conflict that devastated lives in Gaza, Islamic Relief was on the ground distributing desperately needed aid. We remained one of the few agencies working on the ground throughout the conflict. In the years that followed, we delivered a $55 million emergency response and reconstruction programme that included equipping and renovating the intensive care units and emergency departments of nine hospitals.

In 2012, as part of our emergency response to the escalation of another conflict, we delivered $1.8 million worth of medical supplies to hospitals as they received casualties. In 2014, the day after conflict broke out once again, we provided medicine and equipment to hospitals and distributed food, water, soap, towels and other essentials to 15,700 displaced people.

Winter is a testing time for Rizq and his family

Rizq and his family have been living in a shelter made of metal sheets since their home was destroyed in the 2014 conflict in Gaza. In the winter of 2019, as temperatures plummeted to below five degrees Celsius, Rizq’s family found themselves without enough heating or blankets, struggling to survive the harsh weather.

Unfortunately their story is far from an isolated case. According to a survey by Shelter Cluster, 23% of Gazan families live in dilapidated housing, while a further 27% live in homes that damage their health.

“I have been suffering since 2014 especially when the winter comes…after the conflict, everything was destroyed. All the things that I had fixed and repaired in our home were destroyed,” says Rizq.

Such poor housing conditions increase the likelihood of contracting harmful infections and developing respiratory problems. Inadequate shelter is also impacting the mental health and wellbeing of families and disrupting children’s education.

Every winter, Islamic Relief helps vulnerable families like Rizq’s survive the harsh weather by repairing homes, providing heating and giving them warm clothes, mattresses and bedding.

Highlights of our current work in Gaza

Islamic Relief is working to empower communities, help rebuild livelihoods and provide opportunities for children and young people in Gaza. In collaboration with partner agencies such as Sida (the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), Islamic Relief is providing both emergency aid and long-term development support to help improve the lives of those worst affected by the ongoing crisis.

On average, we spend around $18 million a year on supporting people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In 2019 alone, we provided lifesaving aid to almost 400,000 people in Gaza.

Ahmed’s family could not have afforded his treatment

With the health and education system already stretched in Gaza, children with physical or mental health issues often struggle to get the support they need. Since 2017 Islamic Relief has been running an early detection programme to diagnose health issues in children and provide the treatment and rehabilitation services they need. To date, it has helped over 30,000 children integrate better at school and home as well as improving their self-esteem and psychological wellbeing.

Ahmed* is a young boy from Gaza who was struggling to keep up at school. His teacher noticed that he found it very difficult to read and write, and was much slower than his peers.

Through the Islamic Relief project, Ahmed’s teacher received training on detecting health issues. Using this knowledge, she was able to discover that he had problems with his vision and needed to be checked.

They took him to three different ophthalmologists and he got treated,” says his mother. “With the early detection, Ahmed’s sight is getting better and better.

“Alhamdulillah, the project has greatly helped my son. Without this help we could not have afforded to treat our son’s condition…it has helped us to overcome this difficulty.”

*Name changed for protection purposes

Our main priorities are providing access to food, education and shelter, as well as improving livelihoods and ensuring protection for the vulnerable.

Our programmes team work tirelessly to help families lift themselves out of poverty and live as dignified a life as possible in a region where the population is increasingly dependent on outside aid.

For more than two decades Islamic Relief has been working with traumatised children to improve their physical and mental health, offering a semblance of normality through access to support facilities and sponsorship programmes, while improving education and employment prospects for young people. We have also been working to improve the curriculum at pre-school level, ensuring the educational framework gives Palestinian children the best possible start in life.

‘The Russul centre, which Islamic Relief has established in Nussairat, is considered to be an innovation lighthouse where it takes care of the most marginalised children. It embraces a unique approach that targets talented children with different interventions that add value to their and their community’s life’ The Middle Area Parents Council.

Islamic Relief is also currently supporting over 7,000 children through our orphan sponsorship programme, providing them and their families with invaluable financial assistance that means vulnerable children can get an education, have their medical and other needs taken of, and work towards a brighter future.

’Some of the young children we sponsored many years ago have now graduated from university or received training and internship opportunities through our programmes. As far as they can remember, Islamic Relief has always been a part of their life’ Eman Al Madhoun, Islamic Relief’s Orphan Sponsorship Officer in Gaza.

Beyond Gaza, Islamic Relief has also been a lifeline for displaced Palestinian families as well as those taking refuge in neighbouring countries like Lebanon and Jordan. We help provide safe homes and shelter, winter survival items, access to education, access to healthcare and mental health services for traumatised children.

Our Covid response work in 2020

Since the outbreak of coronavirus in Gaza, Islamic Relief has been working to prevent the spread of the virus and provide additional support to families at greater risk. Currently we are providing food vouchers to over 56,000 day labourers who are losing out on paid work due to the pandemic. Hospitals, health centres and quarantine centres are receiving medical equipment, hygiene kits, and Covid-19 awareness materials from Islamic Relief and our teams are disinfecting schools and hospitals to reduce the risk of infection.

Support for Palestinians must continue

Working in one the most volatile regions in the world, Islamic Relief is committed to supporting those affected by this protracted crisis through the many challenges they face. Every escalation of violence and the ongoing struggles of life under blockade bring new trauma and setbacks as Palestinians work hard to make the best of their lives in the face of extreme hardship and poverty.

For an entire generation, Islamic Relief has been a household name, a lifeline and an answer to prayer in times of enormous need. We have supported those worst affected for more than two decades, and this vital work must continue.

Please donate to our Gaza Emergency Appeal.

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