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The other side of Gaza!     Happy………..

 

 

 

 

Violin interpretation of "Ferdinand the bull"

Violin interpretation of “Ferdinand the bull”

On A Saturday afternoon, Our small apartment on the 11th floor is filled with music and laughter, balloons, shwarma, ice cream, new friends old friends and smiling , beautiful children. Our guest of honour, is the amazing violinist, Christian, who has come to play a violin interpretation of the classical tale of “Ferdinand the Bull” Our audience consists of some very special children who suffer from a rare skin disease known as Epidermolysis Bullosa ( Sometimes known as Butterfly Children as their skin is described as being as fragile as a butterfly’s wing’s, but I think it is because they are just as beautiful as a butterfly).. follow their blog from Gaza here:

http://www.lefarfalledigaza.com/

The children, Fahad, Reema, Rewan, Islam and Hazim along with some of their siblings and other family members came to listen to Ferdinand the Bull. They sat giggling on the floor and sofa’s until the music and story began. With each note, the children became more enthralled, the violin enticing them  more and more in to the story,  With Christian interacting with the children, waiting for their response, the giggling subsided and within moments, each child was lost in his wonderful music. There was no more difference between the 5 sick children and all the others, as the story , the music , joined hearts and minds and childhood.

 

Epidermolysis bullosa

Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) is an illness that causes the skin to be fragile. Because the skin is so fragile, it can be easily injured, causing painful blisters to form. These blisters can cause serious problems if they become infected. Some people with EB have a mild form of the disease with few blisters. For others, there may be many blisters on the skin. Some people develop blisters inside the body—in places such as the mouth, stomach, esophagus EB skin is never able to ever heal properly with normal strength: chronic open wounds and extensive scarring develop with attendant pain. Each time EB skin is damaged, the damage is irreversible, and disfigurement and disability accrue over a lifetime. Some severe forms of EB are fatal in infancy; others in older children and young adults. The chronic wounds of EB can result in decreased mobility owing to pain and the extensive scar tissue that forms. Scarring in turn results in constriction of the mouth or throat, or ‘mitten’ deformities of the hands and feet: benefits of surgery to release fingers, for example, are of limited duration as scar tissue starts to form again immediately. For some types of EB, the internal mucosa is also affected: nutrition can be compromised, resulting in osteoporosis, and general failure to thrive: quite young children can depend on gastrostomies or require highly specialised diets. A type of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), is a major cause of death for recessive dystrophic (RDEB) teenagers and young adults: surgery, radio- or chemotherapy are not effective. It is particularly aggressive and invasive in EB patients and the need is to prevent development or slow the spread.

 

IN GAZA… Here in Gaza, a lack of fresh, unsalted, un polluted water to clean the children’s wounds adds to an already extremely painful, crippling and often fatal illness. A shortage of bandages to cover exposed and open wounds, and a dire shortage of funds exacerbates the pain the children go through on a daily basis, but despite all this, these are some of the sweetest, friendliest children we have the pleasure of knowing.

In Gaza, there is now a small association helping the children and families effected by EB,  thanks to  Daniela Riva and her determination to fight for the children and her undeniable love for each of them.

An association from Italy, Debra Italia, part of the Debra International group, are assisting with some of the medical needs for the children, sending delegations of Doctors to perform surgery at times on some of the children, The local association try to have different activities for the children, days at the beach, parties etc to give the children a social side and a chance for interaction with other children. Some of the children have now started school. They each attend clinics regularly to change bandages, have treatment, physiotherapy etc.

These children, Fahad, Reema, Rewan, Islam and Hazim have never known a day without pain. On this day alone, Fahad could not walk due to new large blisters on his feet, Hazim came to the party direct from Shifa hospital after having a new, infected blister bandaged on his fore arm, but through daily adversity, they smile, always , they smile, laugh and humble those of us honoured enough to know them. Reema struggled to her feet to take centre stage and sing a song, Islam , supported by Dani, insisted on joining in with the dancing and Rewan mingled, chatted and posed for the pictures.

 

But , on this Saturday,  in the company of Ferdinand the Bull, they were just children………

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If you would like more information on the Association in Gaza or would like to donate to the children, just contact us here and we will put you in contact with Daniela or the Association members.

So, Finally  3 weeks and 2 days  after leaving Ireland, We managed to return to Gaza. After spending one week in Cairo we moved to El Arish  as it was reported the border would be open the following day.  We ended up spending a further 2 weeks in El Arish.

From 6 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. each day in El Arish, all forms of communication are cut off, phone lines, mobiles and internet  by the military ( who are very visible at all times ) . Friends in Gaza would try to stay in contact, with regards to the following days information on the crossing, either late the night before or very very early the next morning.

In the end we were able to cross when it opened for 2 days to allow pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia to cross.  Although we are delighted to finally be back in Gaza, It is utterly disgraceful that we, as Irish citizens who chose to live in Gaza ( and are very lucky to do so) should be allowed to enter while Palestinians are still denied the right to return home via the Rafah crossing ( or indeed any other crossing) .The border has now been closed to “regular” passage for more than one month now  with catastrophic consequences. A baby boy has died as he waited for the border to open so he could receive medical treatment in Turkey, and sadly this is just one story of many…( details  of the story ) http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=681338

Gaza is in the midst of a thunder and lightening storm. Cold , wet and windy, we could be back in Ireland but  for the threat of a large scale Israeli attack . After 3 of its members were killed by the occupation forces, Islamic Jihad fired up to 130 rockets towards Israel, who retaliated over the next 2 nights. At least 29 airstrikes took place North and South Gaza.

You can read a summary of the last few days here: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/03/bombards-multiple-airstrikes.html

All crossings in to and out of Gaza are now shut tight, including the goods crossing at Karem Shalom. Because of this, the sole power plant in Gaza has now run out of fuel again and is to close tonight. This means Gaza will again be back to 12 hours with out electricity and 6 hours on.

Gaza power plant closes! ( click below for details)

http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=681668

But, we are back! We will take a trip to  Umm Al Nasser in the next few days and update you all on the village and how they are all doing. We will fill you in on our plans for the next few months in Gaza and as always keep you updated on any and all occurences.

You should also check out a new blog available.

“Kathleen and Gillian are paramedics who work on emergency ambulances in England and New Zealand respectively. Both have previously been involved in human rights work at home and abroad, including the West Bank.

They arrived in Gaza in March 2013 with the following hopes and aims:

- To learn more about the health care structure and situation in Gaza, both for health workers and people accessing care.

- To build links and solidarity between Gazan health care workers and their colleagues abroad.

- To understand the impact of Israeli attacks and the continuing blockade on the Gazan health care system.

- To provide specialist pre-hospital training to ambulance workers and others, if needed.

- To bring desperately needed medical supplies across the border, donated by friends and health care professionals from New Zealand, the UK and others.

- To meet ambulance workers and other health care workers, to hear about their working conditions and the challenges they face.

-To work in the pre-hospital environment where possible, and contribute our specialist skills as best we can.

This blog hopes to act as a small window into the health situation in Gaza, and will be updated as frequently as possible.”

Check them out at     http://paramedicsingaza.org/

Heart felt thanks comes from the bedouin community in Umm Al Nasser village in Gaza, and we are forever grateful for your support.

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Since our last posts    ,(http://wp.me/psaGo-15   )some of you have generously  donated  to help  via this blog.

Some of you may actually remember Um Al NAsser village from 2007. ( excerpt from electronic intifada)

“At approximately 10:00 on Tuesday, 27 March 2007, four Palestinians, an elderly woman and 3 children, were killed and 20 others injured in the Um El-Naser (Bedouin) village, when the earth barriers around a sewage disposal pool broke 150 meters to the north of the village. As a result, sewage water flooded from the pool flooded the village, and the effect was more devastating due to the fact that the pool’s elevation was higher than the village, giving the flood more power and destructive force. The level of sewage water was 2 meters high in the village. Four people were drowned to death, and 20 others were injured by the flooding. Emergency crews from the Civil Defense Corps, Medical Crews, and Naval Police were still trying to find missing people at the time of publication. More than 250 homes were damaged, including 20 homes that were totally destroyed. In addition, substantial damage was caused to commercial shops, private vehicles, and other services in the area.”

Umm Al NAsser village is somewhere we spend a lot of time. It is a village of nomadic Palestinians whose hospitality is always second to none. We have spent many days walking through fields of crops, many destroyed in the last floods, or through fields of absolutely delicious strawberries that should be enjoyed by the rest of the world, but which are regularly sold for pittance or left to rot in containers at the border when Israel decides to shut Karem Shalom.

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We sit around campfires drinking sweet tea with families who have been left with virtually nothing . Homes were destroyed by wind and water, with rain still pouring through rusted holes in galvanised roofs.

Thanks to you, we have now managed to cover 52 homes with strong plastic sheeting. The strong plastic/nylon sheeting is wrapped tightly over  the roofs and /or walls of the primitive homes of the villagers. This at least ensures that the heavy rains are being held back from pouring into the rooms and on to the clothes, bed clothes and in to furniture , destroying homes and families …..Some  families needed extra blankets which you have also provided. This may seem like a small matter but it is the difference between bed clothes , children’s clothes and families them selves being wet , damp or destroyed to actually being dry!!!

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Our gratitude goes to each of you who donated but there are still families we have not reached yet and can not reach with out more help.

A quick reminder, there is a paypal button on the donate page of the blog. Again, we reiterate that every cent donated goes to the village for more plastic and blankets. On behalf of the villagers, we offer a huge thank you to all who have and those who may donate and we will of course keep updating you all.

The pictures below are some  of the actual homes now covered in Plastic sheeting.

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Um Al Nasser!

We would like to wish you all a happy, safe and peaceful Christmas from Gaza Strip, the Holy land, Palestine.

In one of our last post’s, http://wp.me/psaGo-13M    ( No Silent Night just a Silent World) , We asked for your help. To those of you who sent donations, we are extremely grateful, Unfortunately , more help is needed.

With the donations received, We focused on an area in Gaza known as Um Al Nasser village. This village is home to  many of Gaza’s Bedouin . Gaza bedouin community is a poorly funded, often neglected sector , whose simple homes are predominantly made of galvanize sheets  for walls, on floors of sand. Curtains are used as partitions or doors for privacy. Roofs are made of rusted old sheets of galvanize. They are mostly herders with a small amount of agriculture being their only source of food and/or income. There is no infrastructure in this area as this community live directly on the border with Israel. They are on the front line of daily attacks where home’s, livestock and lives are lost regularly.

Even before the storms of last week, life was hard for an all but forgotten community. Since the storms, where almost every house suffered from differing degrees of damage , from walls falling down, total or partial flooding to total demolishing of homes, this area has been offered no help from government or non governmental organisations. On the lands by the houses, whole crops have been destroyed. There is hardly any thing left of the crops of beans and cabbage crops are now in water logged fields resembling  paddy field’s of Asia. There is almost nothing left .

Your donations were spent on blankets. With the locals from the area negotiating a good price for them , we were able to distribute 42 blankets. Much more is needed in the form of warm dry blankets and plastic sheeting for the roofs and walls of the houses.

Irish in Gaza is not funded or backed by any organisation or NGO. It is just us, Derek and Jenny Graham… and you. We are always very grateful for your support, the support of Family, friends and followers who read and share these posts.

Please do whatever you can.If you can donate to help, please use the paypal facility on the Donate page. If not, please share this post as widely as possible. Please use whatever  means you have to allow us to continue to help. Every cent/penny/dime collected will go directly to Um Al Nasser ……We will update with pictures of the distribution….

Once again, Derek and I thank you for all your support over the last year.We wish for a peaceful, safe year for us all in 2014.

Picture by Obay N Agha.

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Sincerely, with respect , …..

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Even before being hit with a huge storm amounting to much damage and over 10,000 people displaced, Gaza was already being subjected to in humane living conditions. The closure of the border at Rafah which only serves to compound an already brutal Israeli siege means the population here is suffering from extended electricity cuts, lack of fuel and a lack of clean fresh water. The lack of fuel and electricity means many pumping stations do not have the capability to pump away the sewage and there have been many incidents of raw sewage flowing down the streets of Gaza. The lack of electricity means that any fresh water available was also not being pumped to large sectors of Gaza. Gaza has for many years suffered from 90% of its water being undrinkable.

With all of this in mind, We, Derek and myself, as representatives of the Malaysian based NGO, Perdana Global Peace Foundation (www.perdana4peace.org)

, have successfully delivered over 2.3 million liters of clean water to different areas of Gaza strip. In certain area’s this was the first water received in over 7 days. In other area’s we also needed to supply storage tanks for the water.

So, on a daily basis we would travel in convoy, several times a day, with 20-25 trucks of water and groups of helpers from each area, including the “Beit Hanoun Local Initiative Group” and with the help of friends and with generators on the sides of the trucks, We filedl empty,  dry water tanks in as many homes as possible. The trucks would do  2 sometimes 3 trips a day until all the homes in a particular area were filled. In certain areas, like Shoka in the east of Rafah, it would take longer, as the trucks had to return each time to Rafah to refill. In Shati camp, we also needed to use smaller trucks as well as the normal ones that hold 3.5 tonnes, to facilitate the smaller streets. In areas in the aricultural sectors of North Gaza, Farmers  have up to now been using donkey and cart to transport small 20 liter gerry  cans of water  from a well to their lands. Here, as well as the water, we supplied large water containers to be placed on the land that can be filled with a thousand or more liters of water at a time. In another area, the water tank that was destroyed in one of the Mosques was also replaced and subsequently filled.

In each area, we ensured that Schools, kindergartens and clinics received water, in this way guaranteeing that the very young and the sick would, for a little while at least, have access to fresh water daily.

Reaching some areas was a challenge in itself, especially when the rains came and the streets were flooded, but neither ourselves or those helping us were prepared to give up……….And we are not finished yet!!!!!!!!!!!!

We would like to thank everyone who helped out..And ask for your help again soon………..Sincere thanks goes to Paolo, Fady, Sabr, Local Initiative group, ( Beit Hanoun) , The student groups in each area that helped on board the trucks, The Municipalities of Beit Hanoun, Mam Al Nasser, Shoka and Shati camp and of course to all the children in each area that always make these jobs fun!!

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It is not fiction, It does not start with …Once upon a time in a land far away……….. It is 2013 in a country not far from you, A land set in the middle east, an oil rich region of the world. But, this story is not sensational enough to be worth telling, or hearing or reacting to. This is Gaza, Palestine.
The Western world is lit up for Christmas, Log fires are burning, Christmas candles are lit, The snowy scenes are reminiscent of Dickensian times as families gather around in celebration. Today in Gaza we are already 14 hours without electricity , perhaps we will be another 14. Our only lighting and heating are small candles in the centre of the room. Today we are in the middle of a ferocious storm, roads are flooded and impassable, but it is OK, as we have nowhere to go anyway. I am one of the lucky ones, My windows are leaking and letting in rain, but at least I have windows. I spent time this week with families whose walls are made of galvanised sheets pushed in to the sand, whose doors are flimsy curtains and whose roofs are made of tin and reeds, ( or at least they were before today but I am sure tomorrow there will be nothing left).
People will die tonight , of this I am positive. But, the pictures are not sensational enough to be broadcast. You wont see them! This is a slow genocide, a humanitarian disaster . This is the effects of an ongoing siege by Zionist Israel compounded by a complicit Egypt and witnessed and allowed by a heartless World. This is the persecution of a land .
The small hasaka’s of the fishermen are being beaten against the rocks on the Port tonight.. Sheets of tin used as roofs are flying off already freezing cold homes, there is no light, no heat, no hot water..and no end in sight…………. This can be stopped, But,regardless of whether or not the world reacts……….. Gaza will be here tomorrow and the next day and the next …………….

This was written 3 days ago in the midst of a disaster I thought could not get any worse, I was wrong. We have experienced electricity cuts lasting anything up to 35 hours at a time. The temperatures plummeted to 3 degrees as sleet, hail stones and torrential rain continued to fall.  Most homes in Gaza have no insulation and Families have no way to heat their homes. The wind was strong enough to destroy homes, boats , knock down walls , trees etc. Thunder and lightening persisted for four days non stop. Add to all of this, Gaza still has no fuel or electricity. No heat, no running or clean water, sewage still running down the streets.

The lack of fuel means the civil defence teams can not even reach many of the areas affected, Hasaka’s ( small boats) are transporting people around Gaza at the moment as many homes have had to be evacuated. Gaza’s civil defense force media spokesperson Muhammad Al-Midna added that the lack of electricity had exacerbated the difficulties faced by Gaza residents as it limited the ability of civil defense forces to pump water from flooded areas.

He highlighted that blackouts of over 12 consecutive hours and the lack of fuel to run generators during those blackouts had effectively crippled the ability of civil defense forces to respond for large periods of time. Government schools are being used to shelter the homeless.The Gaza Ministry of Information announced that the numbers of residents staying in shelters in the  has hit 5,ooo although OCHA are reporting 10,000 are evacutaed from their homes to either shelters or relatives homes .

A statement from UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness reads:

“Large swathes of northern Gaza are a disaster area with water as far as the eye can see. Areas around Jabalia have become a massive lake with two meter high waters engulfing homes and stranding thousands,” the statement read.

“Four thousand UNRWA workers are battling the floods and have evacuated hundreds of families to UNRWA facilities. Our sanitation, manintenance workers, social workers and medical staff have been working through the night and round the clock to assist the most vulnerable, the old, the sick, children and women,”

“We have distributed five thousand of litres of fuel to local pumping stations, but the situation is dire and with the flood waters rising, the risk of water borne disease can only increase. This is a terrible situation which can only get worse before it gets better,” it added, referring to major fuel shortages across the Gaza Strip that have dramatically worsened in the last few months.

“When all this is over, the world community needs to bring effective pressure to end the blockade of Gaza,”

“Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this,”

“And of course it is the most vulnerable, the women and children, the elderly who will pay the highest price of failure to end the blockade.”

There have been at least 96 injuries reported via medical response teams and hospital’s throughout the strip and two confirmed death’s reported. According to medical sources   Hamza al-Amour, 22, died Saturday of asphyxiation from fumes and smoke from a fire he was burning in his room to stay warm, and 90-year-old Mahmoud Farajallah,  died after his house was flooded.

We have just returned from a School where over 900 people are now seeking refuge due to their houses now being unlivable.

AND THEN THIS HAPPENED: Israel opens Dams to compound an already desperate situation:

http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=656950

The Gaza government’s Disaster Response Committee announced late Friday that Israeli authorities had opened up dams just east of the Gaza Strip, flooding numerous residential areas in nearby villages within the coastal territory.

Committee chairman Yasser Shanti said in a press conference that Israeli authorities had opened up dams just to the east of the border with the Gaza Strip earlier in the day.

He warned that residential areas within the Gaza Valley would be flooding within the coming hours.

He said that the move by Israeli authorities would flood areas in Moghraqa and other parts of Deir el-Balah in central Gaza, and he called upon residents of areas near the Gaza Valley to evacuate their homes in preparation for the anticipated flooding……

“Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this,”

In the spirit of Christmas or Humanity,We need your help. We are doing all we can but more help is badly needed. Please donate what you can via the paypal link  ( Donate page) on this blog so we can help with more blankets, food, shelter etc.

(Many) Pictures by Awni Farhat ( Shukran Awni)

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