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A father of a refugee family from Beit Lahya is taking a donation bag with dry food in the Holy Family School refuge camp. 1st August 2014. © Virginie NGUYEN HOANG/hanslucas.com - Secours Catholique/ Caritas France.

A refugee family from Beit Lahya receives a donation bag with dry food. They are staying at the Holy Family School refugee camp. Photo by Virginie Nguyen Hoang/hanslucas.com – Secours Catholique/ Caritas France.

“Every second of every minute I expect to be bombed,” said Mahmoud Majdalawi, a Caritas staff member working in Gaza.

The small territory has been devastated by weeks of war. Everywhere you go, there are the ruins of buildings destroyed in the shelling. After schools that had been designated as UN shelters for civilians had been hit, he said nobody feels safe.

“When you go out on the street, you don’t know what will happen,” he said. “There are rockets everywhere. I was in the car and the building in front of me was destroyed by a rocket, just 100 metres away.”

Mahmoud has been working in Gaza to coordinate Caritas Jerusalem‘s aid distribution to people who have fled the Israeli military operation against Hamas in Gaza.

Caritas has been providing healthcare through its medical centre and to people who have fled their homes to find shelter in schools, as well as food baskets, blankets and hygiene kits.

“We work every day because the people need us,” he said. “We can’t leave them without any assistance at this moment.”

Caritas is working in schools that have become shelters under the UN. Over quarter of a million people are crammed into the 90 schools.

“Conditions are terrible. You have 150 people in every classroom. They have no water, blankets or provisions. We are facing a health disaster,” said Mahmoud.
Caritas has so far provided hygiene kits. Today a pause in the fighting means he has been able to organise food baskets and blankets for those in the schools.

“At 9 in the morning during a pause, people are on the streets, visiting their old neighbourhoods to check on their homes, or visiting family or just trying to find basic necessities,” he said. “At 5 in the evening, when the pause ends and the shelling begins, the streets become deserted.”

A family from a refugee camp in a school are coming to the Caritas clinic to have a consultation. © Virginie NGUYEN HOANG/hanslucas.com - Secours Catholique/ Caritas France.

A family from a refugee camp in a school attends the Caritas clinic in Gaza City. Photo by Virginie Nguyen Hoang/hanslucas.com – Secours Catholique/ Caritas France.

Mahmoud’s family is in Gaza. When he returns home from work, he must take care of them.

“You stay with them during the night. You want to be with them because of the bombing,” he said. “Then in the morning, you go to be with the people.”

The Caritas clinic and medical services in the shelters have been able to provide health care despite the risks. “Everyone who comes, we treat them for free,” he said.

He believes this is worse than previous conflict in damage and death. Everyone in Gaza has been touched.

Mahmoud has lost five members of his extended family, a close friend has been killed and he knows many people who have been injured.

“People just want a normal life. They want to be able to work, to have clean water, to be able to travel. We need to see an end to the blockade,” he said.

“We need to see an end to children being killed in their beds. The killing must stop.”