|NGOs like Save the Children are struggling to reach all of those in need of aid [GALLO/GETTY]|
Salwa El Tibi, the programme manager of Save the Children, a non-governmental humanitarian relief and development organisation, in Gaza, describes the challenges of living and working under Israeli fire.
|Out of our hands|
“The situation here is not in our hands.
We heard about the temporary halt in fire at 12.30 today. It ended at 4.00 and at 4.05 exactly the shelling started again.
As soon as the bombing stopped, I went to the shops to get food for my family.
I went to four bakers but did not manage to get any bread as there were so many people queuing. Children, women, old men, youths – everyone was waiting.
Believe me, three hours is not enough time. It ended so quickly.
If we want to work and go to the north and the south of the Gaza Strip to reach children there who need our help, we need more time. It takes time to distribute humanitarian aid.
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So far, Save the Children has distributed 2,103 aid parcels across the Gaza Strip.
It is important for us to be able to provide aid in this situation.
We have even found 750 food parcels from a vendor in the south who started to distribute them today.
We were keeping parcels in our warehouse in Gaza City for the south of the Strip but because Gaza has been split into two, we were unable to reach the south. Now, we will distribute those parcels we were saving for the south in the north instead.
We now only have 600 food parcels left in our stores – we need more.
We did not get anything across the border today. But toys, blankets, first aid kits and hygiene kits are expected tomorrow. I hope they will succeed in getting them into Gaza.
All of the people here are suffering. Yesterday, I received an appeal from a school in a beach camp. They do not have any mattresses and some of the 7,000 people staying there do not even have blankets.
We started to look for mattresses yesterday but we cannot find any in Gaza. We need more money so that we can find these supplies and bring them across the border.
The children are suffering such trauma – they are thinking such bad thoughts about the killing and all the blood.
As I write this, we have not heard any bombing for about 30 minutes, so my daughter is feeling happy. I can hear her laughing.
The temporary halt in fire today was good. Walking outside, seeing people, watching children play football made me very happy. But it was just three hours and then it was over so quickly.”
|Nowhere is safe|
“Yesterday was the first time in nine days that I was able to leave my house.
It is about a 10 minute journey from my home to the warehouse where the Save the Children food parcels are stored – but even as I drove the Save the Children car to work, I felt very afraid.
The noise from the bombings was so loud. There were very few cars on the roads and all of the shops were closed.
I saw three buildings that had been completely destroyed.
At the warehouse I waited for our volunteer staff who help to distribute our food parcels across different parts of the Gaza Strip.
When we distribute the parcels we work in groups because it is so dangerous.
|Many Gazan children are traumatised by the events they have witnessed [GALLO/GETTY]|
The volunteers packed their cars with the parcels and headed out to different parts of Gaza City and the north of the Strip.
Although they are volunteers we will give them some money because it is dangerous work.
One of our volunteers, Eyad, was distributing parcels in the beach camp when a huge bomb went off. By chance he is still alive.
It is really very difficult but we have to do this. We are at war. It is an excellent achievement that we can provide humanitarian aid in these areas.
When I had spent more than four hours working in the warehouse I asked the warehouse owner to call my husband to let him know that I was okay. My husband said that I should come back home, so I left the warehouse feeling very afraid about the journey back.
We prioritise distributing our food parcels to families with many children. Our selection criteria mean that every home with five or more children should receive our parcels but we wish we could reach more families. Some are in dire need of our help.
Eyad distributed 184 parcels in Gaza yesterday.
Half of all the parcels have now been handed out. The other half will go to the south of the Strip but there are some areas we cannot reach because of the situation.
Today we are very busy because we are trying to assess the needs of some hospitals in the Gaza Strip. A doctor told us they are in urgent need of bed covers, doctor’s coats, scrubs and gauze pads.
We are lucky because when we called the medical vendors we managed to track down some of these supplies. Right now we are assessing our budget and then tomorrow we will start to distribute these supplies to the Kamal Edwan hospital in the north and to other clinics in Gaza.
Every morning, I evaluate the situation to see if I can leave the house. Today, for example, I could not move at all so I am working from home. Ramsey, my colleague, lives close to the office and the warehouse is working with me to get these supplies out to the places where they are needed.
I cannot promise that I will be able to leave the house tomorrow either but I can promise that by 11am tomorrow, Ramsey will get these medical supplies to the hospitals regardless of the security situation.
It is like an earthquake here. If you could only hear the bombs going off.
I have five blankets covering my legs because it is so cold. All of my children have five blankets on them too. Every minute there is a bomb.
I am a strong woman. If I saw a person die, I can stop and help and be strong, but in this situation I feel that I cannot do anything.
When I was driving the car yesterday, I felt very faint. How will they know it is a woman driving this car, I thought. Even if it has a Save the Children logo, they still would not know.
It is the same across the whole Gaza Strip. You cannot find a safe area at all.”