02/06/2018, 15.55
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For Caritas director, Gaza is on the verge of collapse

The situation in the Strip is getting worse due in part to Trump’s funding cut. Currently, only six hours of electricity are available a day. Caritas is committed to children traumatised by wars and to the elderly.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - "Gaza is on the brink of collapse," warns Sister Bridget Thige, the new director general of Caritas Jerusalem, who has been involved for years in projects to help the people of the Gaza Strip, afflicted by poverty and continuous wars.

The situation in Gaza has worsened in recent months and future prospects are not positive. The blockade that turned the Strip into an "open-air prison" from which it is "almost impossible" to get out continues.

The energy crisis is still acute, essential medical drugs are in short supply, cuts to the salaries of the employees of the Palestinian National Authority have aggravated the bad economic situation and, now, the freezing of US funds for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is raising fears.

“Cuts will affect not only the recipients of aid and education but also employees,” says Sister Thige. “Thousands of people work for the agency: teachers, social workers, psychologists. If the budget is cut UNRWA will have to decide what to cut. Will it be education? Health? Food?”

This is happening at a time of acute fuel shortages. "Last summer the energy crisis got very desperate. I was living in Gaza at the time so I've lived through it with the Gazan people.”

“Where I lived in Gaza City, sometimes during the heat of the summer in July and August, we had electricity for as a little as two, three or four hours. People had no fridge, so they had to buy food every day. This made things more expensive. Hospitals had to spend more money on generators to run essential services.”

“People really suffered. I've heard stories of families rushing [to hospital] with a choking child who needed a ventilator to get the child breathing again. Now it's a little better.”

Although there are more hours of electricity, the situation in hospitals is still desperate because they lack basic medicines.

"When I was living in Gaza, I attended meetings organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), together with a local Health Ministry representative, a video link with Ramallah, and other organisations involved in healthcare. We got a regular update on the list of medicines, which is almost always near zero."

In Gaza Caritas’s main commitment is to health, to support the most vulnerable with a permanent medical centre and mobile teams. The focus is on children and seniors, who no one else cares for.

For the youngest, the main objective is to work with their minds traumatised by the war. "If you are ten years old in Gaza, you have gone through three or four wars. Many children – probably all – are traumatised to some extent."

Another programme targets refugees aged 3 to 5 years in poor areas, where intestinal worms are a major problem.

“I hope there are political and other negotiations behind the scenes to ease the situation,” concludes Sister Thige, “but I don't know what they are. All I know is the situation on the ground. I lived there, I shared their lives, I know how desperate it is.”

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