Update from Gaza

Our Director of Programmes and Partnerships, Jamie Eyre, writes from Gaza where he is visiting our Christian partners who are working in worsening conditions to assist those who need it the most.

When I tell family and friends that I’m travelling to Gaza the reaction is rarely positive. The stories of war and occasional rockets are etched in our minds and Gaza is a place that people simply just don’t visit. The two lonely coffee cups set out for breakfast in our hotel this morning are testament to this.

In May 2015, a World Bank report (World Bank press release) told us that the Gaza economy was on the verge of collapse, with the highest unemployment rate in the world.

Some 60% of youth were unemployed at the end of 2014. The news in the last few days is equally bleak. A UN study (UNWRA press release) showed that in 2013 infant mortality in Gaza rose for the first time in five decades.  

We’re in Gaza this week to meet with local Christian partners who are working to support people in really difficult situations. Over the past two years Embrace has supported the Near East Council of Churches (NECC) to run well baby services from their Gaza clinics. In 2014 alone more than 1,000 under-fives were treated for anaemia and malnutrition, many more families were supported with health education and clinic access.

A new job creation project, also run by NECC, will provide opportunities for unemployed young people started in July and has already demonstrated the incredible demand for work. More than 3,200 young people applied for the 75 places available on this scheme. There is no shortage of desire to work only a lack of opportunity.

The partnerships we have here are inspiring and enable Embrace and our supporters to be a small part of the solution. But as I look around at the limitations on daily life, the blackouts and shortages, limited basic services, severe restrictions on freedom to travel and the obvious lack of reconstruction after last year’s war, it is clear that so much more needs to be done. A comment from one of the Doctors we work with has not stopped playing in my mind: "The world has treated Gaza and the war last year as a natural disaster. This doesn’t take years of blockade and its impact into account".

The World Bank report puts it simply: “Blockades, war and poor governance have strangled Gaza's economy”. We need to keep supporting our partners to assist those who need it the most and, perhaps more importantly, to raise awareness  and work where we can to bring Gaza’s isolation to an end.