Covid-19 in Gaza IBBY & Friends Respond to Gaza Children’s Pain and Needs

Thursday 5 August 2021 by Rania

Three days ago we had the alarming news that Gaza Hospitals Occupancy has Reached 100% with the surge of Coronavirus Cases. This reflected a very dangerous situation in the Israeli besieged Gaza.

There were closures in the spring, but then the Covid -19 was contained through the quarantining of those coming from outside Gaza so it was not scary. Now as it spread inside Gaza, people are scared and worried as they know that the medical system cannot accommodate their infection.

The oppressive siege is in violation of International law mostly the Geneva Conventions, imposed by Israel on land, air and sea on 2 million Gazans since more than 14 years. There is ongoing deterioration of the infrastructure and of the ruined economy where the unemployment rate exceeds 55% and where access to clean water and electricity are at crisis level.

Almost a decade ago a UN report warned that “if the siege of Gaza and the prevailing economic, environmental and political trends continue Gaza will become unlivable by 2020!” This was before the disaster of “Covid 19”!

Unfortunately the UN and International Community did nothing to stop this atrocity and this human catastrophe!

Covid -19 and our Children

The two libraries established by the International Board on Books for Young People - Palestinian Section are a “Safe Haven” for the children and the only space for their entertainment, creativity and learning. They have been a success story and very welcomed by the children and the local community.

The two libraries are closed since almost three months now, as most areas are infected and closure measures are imposed. The sad fact is that most children live in very crowded houses, have no computers or smart phones; even if they have them, there is no electricity and most parents cannot afford internet connection fare.
The children in Gaza have malnutrition; many have become shorter as there is “the prevalence of stunting” as reported by some studies. The pandemic situation reflected very badly on the children health and well being with their low immunity. This added to the deprivation of these children who are refugees and the grandchildren of Palestinian refugees uprooted from their homes and land in 1948, al-Nakba year. This was accumulated by a serious diminishing of the services of UNRWA due to the evil act of the large cut of their budget thanks to Donald Trump!

IBBY Libraries Facing the Challenge

1. During the first closure we provided every child with stationeries -crayon and copybooks to draw and to write. Children wrote and illustrated stories about their experiences during the Covid 19, many of the stories, published and unpublished, reflected their difficult situation and their deprivations of basic needs and also their resilience in trying to adapt. The outcome was very intriguing and was posted at IBBY webpage and UNICEF Middle East regional webpage.

2. With this deteriorating situation today children are stressed and are very upset at the closure of their library.

• In al Ataa’ - Beit Hanoun library the Corona is widely spread. The librarian tries to have contact with the children mostly those who have access to the internet or are accessible nearby.
• In al Shawka -Rafah library, which is an agricultural area, the infections are fewer (but not for the late few days). At the beginning children were rejecting their prison and started to come individually to the library to borrow books. One month later few children were allowed to sit in the library to read or to discuss a story with the librarian providing sanitizers, masks and social distancing. (Pictures enclosed)

Two weeks ago we sent individual stationary for the second time to be given to each child to encourage personal writing, book summary and reviews and to enhance their artistic talents. This was accompanied by boxes of masks and bottles of sanitizers. (Pictures enclosed)

Emergency Action!

Action was needed in harmony to IBBY’s commitment to Children Rights Convention (CRC) and to our pledge to Bring Children and Books Together, mostly in crisis situations areas.

What were the basic urgent needs? What else other than food given as coupons to the family of the child; this was welcomed by al-Ata’a, while Mahmoud the librarian in al- Shawka said this is very much needed but the priority is for winter cloth for the children. Hopefully in the near future we can alternate, we never lose hope!

Unfortunately these relief materials were late to be delivered because of the several days of closures, hopefully it will be in the coming few days.*

Any voice or gesture in support of the children of Gaza will warm their hearts and enhance their well being!

• The bulk of money is coming from IBBY Children in Crisis Fund and form the donation of some of the sections, a minimal part from donations of friends.

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