Last month I entered Gaza through the Erez crossing in the north. It's near Beit Lahia, the home of the infamous "sewage lagoon." The stench is indescribable. Imagine living near a huge, open pool of raw waste. Two years ago the sand embankments of the lagoon broke and five people drowned in a wave of sewage. Families in the village nearby live with the threat of the embankments breaking again some day.
Add to that threat, 22 days of not knowing whether your family is truly safe from rockets, bombs, bullets, shrapnel, tanks, shattering glass or collapsing buildings. This was the experience of 1.5 million people living in Gaza.
I could see the Mediterranean from neighborhoods of Gaza where before there was a diverse landscape of houses, apartment buildings, clinics and shops. Families are living in tents next to what used to be their homes. I saw factories that have been bombed and concrete-delivery trucks that have been tipped over and crushed by tanks.
Parents are reporting increased incidences of bed wetting among children due to stress. Anxiety was on the faces of preschoolers, many of whom have experienced some type of loss - a parent, a sibling, their home, some have lost limbs. Their schools have suffered "collateral damage" and they now squeeze into smaller spaces for class, sometimes among rubble and debris.
Salah Sakka, ANERA's Director in Gaza, showed me his family's well, orchards, cemetary and tiny mosque. All have been demolished.
It is hard to let go of the images of destruction and the reminders of fear and loss families in Gaza experienced. What I hold on to though, is our commitment to help ease suffering in Gaza. We all want to do more than just help people heal, we want to help them rebuild and to live without being threatened by the onslaught of human waste.
We remain grateful for the part you play in helping the people of Gaza do more than simply survive.
Despite personal tragedies, Salah and our 20 staff in Gaza continue to help families recover, and ANERA strives to provide more every day ...
because the people of Gaza deserve to live with dignity.
Please, tell your friends and family that the suffering in Gaza continues. Share this video.
For my full Gaza trip report, click here.
March 12, 2009