CAFOD: People of Gaza urgently need help

CAFOD reiterates its appeals for an urgent ceasefire and launches a campaign to help the people of Gaza, where people are starving and cold, and where half the entire population is displaced with far-reaching consequences.

By Sr. Nina Benedikta Krapić, VMZ

The official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales (CAFOD) has reiterated its appeal for an urgent ceasefire and help for the people of Gaza.

“We need medicines, and fuel, food and water are really desperately needed”, says Elizabeth Funnell, CAFOD’s Country Programmes Representative for the Middle East, speaking to Vatican News.

CAFOD’s emergency Israeli-Palestinian Crisis Appeal comes as the humanitarian situation facing people in Gaza has become increasingly desperate, and as supplies that entered into Gaza during a seven-day pause in fighting are running out.

Listen to the interview with CAFOD’s Elizabeth Funnell

Since the 1 December, when the hostilities have started again “the situation really has deteriorated very quickly”, says Funnell: “People are just exhausted and starving and it’s increasingly difficult to get information about how people are and where they are.”

“People are exhausted and starving and it’s increasingly difficult to get information about how people are and where they are.”

People who are sheltering in the church compound in Gaza City are “desperately in need of basic items like food and water”, she notes, explaining that  “Because the intensity of the fighting is so fierce around them, they’re afraid to go out to get those basic essentials.”

The supplies that are able to enter Gaza are “just a drop in the ocean”, says Funnel and adds that an increase in aid getting to the ground is necessary.

Displaced Palestinian children in Rafah seek warmth under plastic sheets

Displaced Palestinian children in Rafah seek warmth under plastic sheets

Fuel is essential

Food, water and fuel are in increasingly short supply.

Fuel is essentially needed for the power generators in the hospitals, to keep the vital services going, including saving the lives of premature babies in the incubators. It is also necessary for running the machines for water purification.

“Fuel is needed to keep the vital services going.”

“Even if supplies are able to enter from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, if there’s no fuel for the trucks then those items can’t be distributed,” she explains.

Local partners responding to basic needs

In Gaza, CAFOD is working closely with its local partners to reach those who are affected by the conflict. Despite the danger, aid operators are on the ground, struggling to respond to the needs of the people since this crisis started.

During the pause in fighting from 24 November to 1 December, they got out with mobile medical teams and were able to deliver urgently needed medical assistance to parts of the south of Gaza. Also, they provided cash assistance so that people could go to the local markets and buy whatever was available.

CAFOD’s partners are continuing to work, reaching people with things that they desperately need. They are “showing remarkable ingenuity and resilience despite the circumstances”, says Funnel.

She invites anyone who wishes to log on to CAFOD’s Emergency Appeal page and donate much-needed financial support, “if people are able to give, it will be very well used to support people in Gaza.”

It is getting colder

Funnell points out that it’s getting colder and wetter in Gaza: “I’ve been in Gaza at this time of year and it does flood, so people really need those items for shelter – tents and sheeting  – to kind of cover damaged buildings.”

CAFOD’S partners on the ground have been able to buy and distribute those things, she continues, “But is becoming more difficult because the items that were available inside Gaza are running out.”

“Items that were available inside Gaza are running out.”

A displaced Palestinian man in his makeshift tent at a camp in Rafah

Risk of infectious diseases

As the war entered its third month, over 18,000 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis have been killed, thousands more injured, and over 1.9 million people in Gaza are displaced. 

People have been displaced many times. “They have to leave the areas they have been displaced to when they get informed it’s going to come under attack, so they are forced to leave with nothing,” Funnell explains.

“Almost half of Gaza’s population is now thought to be living in just one area (Rafah) in the south, and it was already one of the most densely populated areas in the world,” she says.

“Almost half of Gaza’s population is living in just one area.”

In such overcrowded conditions, without essentials, it is hard to keep the hygiene standards.

“Organizations like the World Health Organization are increasingly worried that the disease is going to kill more people than fighting will”, stresses Funnel.

Makeshift toilets in Rafah

Makeshift toilets in Rafah

Christmas gifts for the people of Gaza

In the light of the upcoming Christmas holidays, she says, there are ways to help those who seek peace the most, to help people who suffer in Gaza, be it with prayers, appeals or donations. 

CAFOD’s partners in Gaza are “fearful about the future and desperate to see a peaceful future for their children”, stresses Funnel and encourages people to pray for them.

“When I’ve been speaking to our church partners in the region, they feel very isolated and sometimes they feel forgotten,” says Funnel.  “And just when I tell them that people are praying for them, it really encourages them.”

Another action CAFOD encourages is for citizens to write to their elected representatives urging them to support a permanent ceasefire or to give financial support.

Displaced Palestinians in Rafah