Over the past few days Gaza has experienced cold like never before. Rain and hail have battered the cities and the biting wind has meant that the best place for most people was at home.
But for thousands of people made homeless following Israel’s three-week assault on the Gaza Strip, their refuge is nothing more than a tent.
“My children were so afraid they began crying because of the heavy rain, thunder and lightning,” says Ashraf Abed Rabo, a father of nine whose house was demolished in a missile attack and who is now in tented accommodation.
Mr Rabo says that when you live in a tent, the thunder and lightning sound like an earthquake and are terrifying for his children. The cold is also taking a toll on their health and some of his children – like many others in the temporary camps – are suffering from flu and a fever.
“My stomach ached so much because I was scared and cold,” says Mr Rabo’s seven-year-old daughter.
The Israeli attacks in December and January left 16,000 people homeless in Gaza. These people lost their lives, memories, homes and loved ones and were left to face the bitter Gazan winter.
The current bad weather means that some families have been made homeless for a second time as they abandon their tents in search of a drier and warmer place to live.
Some people have been taken in by other families in Gaza. But others have had to return to their tents after two days away only to find the pillows, mattresses and their possessions soaked through by the heavy rains.
Caritas has launched a US$2 million appeal to help the people of Gaza. It has been providing medical services, food and hygiene kits, and financial and psychological support.
The people who have been made homeless twice in a few short months need all this and a whole lot more. Even if aid agencies take care of their immediate needs, who will give them back their homes and possessions? When will their lives return to normal?
As they pack up their scant possessions a second time to escape the wind, rain and storms, there is little relief on the horizon for Gazans.
“My children have no clothes and no shoes. There is nothing! I think the life of a beggar is better than ours,” says Mr Rabo.
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