Between May 10 and 21 2021, violence erupted between Israel and armed forces in the Gaza Strip, following weeks of tension and demonstrations against an ongoing court case where settler groups sought to expel several Palestinian families from their homes in the disputed neighbourhood of Sheikh Jerrah in East Jerusalem. Israel’s military campaign caused extensive damage and casualties in the Gaza Strip; according to UN OCHA:
- 256 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children and 40 women, and almost 2,000 were injured
- 1,042 housing and commercial units, spread over 258 buildings, were destroyed
- 769 further units suffered severe damage
- 53 schools were damaged
- 6 hospitals and 11 clinics were damage
In addition, the intense bombing campaign that continued unabated during 11 days had a detrimental effect on the mental health of people in Gaza, particularly children; according to UNICEF, 275,000 children were in urgent need of psychosocial support following the escalation.
Four aid organisations of the Dutch Relief Alliance, together with ten local partners, are working together to deliver humanitarian aid and essential services. The organisations each bring their own expertise to the table. This consists of:
- FSL: the extreme poverty that prevails in the Gaza Strip severely affects food security, with a large number of households unable to afford the cost of food. The recent escalation has further impacted local farmers and their households due to the loss of their livelihoods. Save the Children and its local partner is working to support affected farmers to meet their food needs and to re-establish their livelihoods. Terre des Hommes provides electronic vouchers (E-Vouchers) to the most food insecure households to meet basic food needs.
- Health: the escalation increased the need for MHPSS for a population that was already experiencing a severe mental health crisis, due to the blockade and recurrent escalations of violence. The crisis occurred at a time when the population was already struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, which adds to the mental health strain. War Child is training and supervising frontline partners on safe identification and referrals; providing specialized mental health services; and providing information on how to deal with trauma and how to seek mental health assistance.
- Protection: there is evidence of high levels of stress prevailing throughout the Gaza Strip following the escalation, with particular concern for girls and women. Oxfam, Terre des Hommes and War Child are working across the Gaza Strip to provide: holistic and multi-layered MHPSS services to vulnerable children and caregivers; child protection and GBV case management services to the most vulnerable children and women; and referrals of the most vulnerable children and families to relevant services (Cash, WASH, Health, Shelter, FSL).
- WASH: the WASH sector in the Gaza Strip was already strained prior to the escalation, in the large part due to shortages in energy (fuel and electricity) and the lack of spare parts to repair or upgrade water and wastewater treatment plants infrastructure, due to the 14-year blockade of the Gaza Strip and recurrent wars. During the May escalation, there were more than 100 instances of damage to WASH infrastructure, directly affecting over 1.2 million Palestinians in the Strip. Oxfam and its local partner are working to restore WASH services and service delivery to the affected population, by repairing and maintaining 9 damaged WASH infrastructures, and through the provision of Hygiene Kit vouchers to the most affected households.
- Multipurpose Cash Assistance: Cash and voucher assistance provides quick and flexible support to the most vulnerable and affected families in the Gaza Strip. DRA partner Terre des Hommes is providing a multipurpose, unconditional and unrestricted cash assistance to the most vulnerable households to cover their basic needs and restore their coping capacities.