Nada Shawish is a communications specialist at Islamic Relief USA.
Washington, D.C.—After the last episode of violence erupted in Gaza in summer 2014, Palestinians families in Gaza have struggled to rebuild their lives. Islamic Relief USA has been working directly with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to deliver vital aid to Palestinians in Gaza. On March 17, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl presented IRUSA CEO Anwar Khan with an award recognizing IRUSA’s humanitarian efforts in Gaza.
Islamic Relief USA donors have been supporting humanitarian projects in Gaza through UNRWA to help restore dignity to living conditions of Palestinians there. Emergency projects included food aid, hygiene and sanitation, and delivery of urgently needed supplies to people affected by the violence.
Islamic Relief has long implemented development projects in Palestine, and with the recent emergency over, the focus has returned to rehabilitation and development. Donors are restoring clean water sources, providing medicine and preventative health care, and caring for Gaza’s children by giving them the psychosocial support necessary to overcome the traumas of war.
Five hundred and forty children were killed during the last conflict alone—138 of them students in UNRWA schools. “Those are children who did not return to their classrooms,” said Mr. Krähenbühl. Three thousand children were also injured just last summer, and one-third of them will live with lifelong disabilities. The statistics grow with every passing conflict in Gaza, where more than 50% of the population lives in extreme poverty and unemployed, despite overall high education levels among adults and employable youth.
“On a daily basis, we struggle in an environment where what is most lacking is hope,” Mr. Krähenbühl said. “Even if it’s a modest contribution that we will make, with your support, [we want to] bring a bit of hope to the region.”
The UNRWA-IRUSA partnership is proving to be vital. Through this partnership, more than $6.6 million in aid has been delivered inside Gaza through UNRWA since 2014. This work has brought relief to more than 384,000 Palestinians in just the last year.
Anwar Khan emphasized that the merit lies with IRUSA donors who care deeply about Palestinians in Gaza and the Palestinian humanitarian situation. Without them, this work would not be possible.
“We want to tell our donors that that we are working in partnership,” Mr. Khan said. This is your money in action.”
Both UNRWA and IRUSA agree that changing the situation for Palestinians in Gaza in part relies on political action and policy change. But there is still a great deal we can do to relieve suffering, lift as many people as possible out of poverty, and to show the world we care.
“One of the responsibilities we have is to ensure that nobody is allowed to reduce suffering, injury or death to something anonymous,” Mr. Krähenbühl said. “… It is our responsibility to put that human face on the conflict.”