Friday, June 8, 2012

Gaza: after 45 years of occupation

Imagine living your entire life in an area of 146 square miles—a place that would barely accommodate a marathon run from one end to the other, and an average person could walk across in an hour.  Now imagine sharing that space with 1.5 million people whose average income is a little over a dollar a day.  By comparison, the city of Los Angeles city limits cover over 469 square miles.

Now that you are in your imaginary over-crowded poverty-stricken ghetto, add the constant violence.  The Israeli assault, Operation Cast Lead (Dec 2008-Jan 2009) showed a spectacle of exploding bombs dropped from F-15s and Apache helicopters, catching the attention of the international media for a brief time.  Smaller attacks continue, unremarked by media attention.
Death by military violence is not the only danger in Gaza.  Infrastructure supplying electricity, water, sewer services never recovered from the destruction of the attack, partly due to the continued blockade that restricts fuel and electricity and combines an embargo on agricultural exports and imports of building materials, medicines, medical devices and equipment.

The World Health Orga­ni­za­tion reports that there is a health and envi­ron­men­tal disaster in the Gaza Strip due to the destruc­tion of infra­struc­ture and sewage systems: the pathogen content of drinking-water samples is 16% (the universal water safety norm rec­om­mended by inter­na­tional standards is 1%). … It has been estimated that the health status of nearly 40% of those suffering from chronic diseases has dete­ri­o­rated as a result of the reduction in health-care services.
One international effort to supply precious cargo of penicillin and baby formula fail after repeated efforts to get the supplies into Gaza were thwarted.

The blockade is a major factor in the pervasive poverty.  Without the ability to leave Gaza, men who once supported their families by working in other areas can no longer find jobs.  Small factories can no longer bring in raw materials.  Badly needed construction cannot be done because the building materials cannot be brought into the area.  Even school books and materials are severely restricted. 

"Every third child in Gaza stunted by hunger": interview with renowned doctor Mads Gilbert an article in The Electronic Intifada dated 7 June 2012 describes just one of the results of living under the conditions that exist in Gaza.
Gaza Mental Health Foundation based in Boston, MA sends all donations to the Gaza Community Mental Health Project.
American Friends of UNRWA based in Washington, DC sponsors programs, such as a summer camps for the children of Gaza, and breast cancer screening in the refugee camps of Lebanon.  They have a lovely greeting card for sale—all proceeds go to UNRWA. 
UNRWA United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees has many resources for more information, photos, historical information, and statistics.  You can also donate directly to UNRWA

My favorite YouTube video about Gaza is "We Will Not Go Down" by Michael Heart.  Some of the images are quite graphic and the video has been age restricted, but you can find it

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