Today (January 14) marks the 100th day of the war on Gaza. The area has been witnessing the continuation of Israeli ground operations, in northern, middle, and southern Gaza. DSPR has been following the situation with grave concern and has been intervening through its field staff and steering emergency committee to relief, when possible and reachable, the most vulnerable and those who are most in need through lifesaving activities.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “a public health catastrophe is rapidly evolving in Gaza with high levels of violent deaths and injuries, mass displacement, overcrowding, major disruption and dysfunction of the health system, and damage to water and sanitation infrastructure”. According to the UN, the reported fatality toll since the start of the hostilities reached 23,968 of whom about two-thirds are children and women; injuries have reached more than 60,582 people. 7,780 were reported missing or under the rubble.
Most of the population 2.2 million people are at imminent risk of famine.
We pray that the international community is able to implement the Security Council’s newly adopted resolution among others that demands immediate, safe, and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale directly to the Palestinian civilian population throughout the Gaza Strip.
DSPR’s humanitarian response update:
Primary and Dental Health Services
We have continued receiving people at the DSPR-Gaza Rafah Clinic for primary health care services, including offering some medicine and health supplies. According to the UN, 13 out of the 72 primary health care facilities are functional. In central and south Gaza, the DSPR-Gaza clinic is one of four centres that continue to serve the needy population in Rafah. The population is growing daily and has reached around 1.3 million in a place that used to be inhabited by 250,000. The need is huge, the clinic is crowded.
We were obliged to extend the space of the clinic by moving the management to another building. We are using the offices as clinics to expand our capacity to offer services. Since it was re-opened in December 2023, we have been able to reach more than 400 patients every day. The clinic services included: dental care, mother and child care, psychosocial support, distributing medicine and hygiene kits, and primary health care. DSPR Gaza has been closely liaising and coordinating with the UN health cluster and the WHO in Gaza.
Timely and targeted health awareness workshops conducted in the Gaza communities [will help protect people from the] spread of communicable diseases including serious hygiene-related problems. The health awareness team prepared materials to conduct sessions in the different Rafah refugee locations and neighbourhoods. It began working [in collaboration] with the health department of the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency) schools. DSPR continues to [work in the schools] but also conducts awareness sessions in its Rafah Clinic. Many of the patients were invited to attend these awareness sessions.
The team continues to distribute dignity/ hygiene kits to the participants in the awareness sessions (as available in the local market). The kits include soap, shampoo, lice shampoo, women’s pads. Considering the worsening health situation where 15 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are partially functional (9 in the south and 6 in the north) and critical shortages of drugs, blood products and supplies, DSPR Gaza plans on continuing with these interventions for the next 2-3 months.
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Interventions
In November and December, DSPR Gaza organized mental health and psychosocial support interventions with the forcibly displaced people in the south of the Gaza Strip. It focused on small groups of mothers and children and big gatherings for children. It is targeting children and mothers for the psychosocial interventions. More than 5,000 children (aged 5-9 years) were reached through open days, fun days, and venting activities. DSPR Gaza’s mental health staff and volunteers have been able to coordinate these activities in more than 5 different UNRWA shelters and schools. Additionally, a healthy snack composed of mineral water and a nutritious palm date was provided to each participant. DSPR Gaza is continuing the psychosocial support activities, targeting another 4,000 children and women, and offering psychological first aid to those in need.
Unconditional Cash Distribution
More than 600 families have received a one-time transfer of 190 USD allowing heads of households to receive funds through their mobile numbers. According to many of the recipients of this distribution, the amount was primarily used to cover their basic needs such as purchasing water, food and some other important needs for their families.
In light of the continued dire need for food continues to be acute across the Gaza Strip (according to the UN) where the entire population of Gaza – almost 2.2 million people – are in crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity, DSPR is planning to continue unconditional cash distribution for an additional 500 households across the Gaza strip.
Distribution of Milk for Children
Eleven pallets of single-serve milk boxes were brought from American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) last week. Our staff are offering them to children in need, who are coming with their caregivers to Rafah Clinic. This was not in DSPR’s original plan. However, as the needs are constantly changing we found that offering such service presents a big help for the children, especially those with limited food availability
Around 800 members of the Christian community continue to take refuge in the 2 churches in Gaza (Holy Family Catholic Church and the St Porphyrios Orthodox Church). During the holiday season, DSPR was able to coordinate with the Jordanian Hashemite Charitable Organization (JHCO) to deliver food parcels to relieve the internally displaced people who have been staying in the church since the beginning of the war. These packages were airdropped by the Jordanian Air Force. Special thanks to DSPR’s chairperson Dr. Audeh Quawas and Mr. Fares Swais, executive director of DSPR Jordan who have both tirelessly worked on this matter.
Humanitarian Response Management
The joint emergency committee has continued to meet frequently throughout the last few weeks. Since the DSPR Gaza board was not able to meet or the staff moved, DSPR started the emergency committee in October 2023, led by the Central Office. Meetings are taking place through WhatsApp groups to share ideas and ways to support and respond to emergencies.
The needs are beyond belief, the resources are limited and hard to find, and the teams on the ground are exhausted working in extremely unsafe and hard conditions, but determined to serve this noble mission.
The decision was made by the staff in Rafah Clinic to extend the working hours to be able to meet the growing demand in the very crowded clinic.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few” Matthew 9:35-37
Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees with minimal editing by CWS
January 17, 2024
Please stand with all those affected by the war and pray for peace.