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Volume 9, No. 2FALL 2006

Critical Gaza Medical Support Provided by Greek MFA Gift

Photo by Yasser Abed

Jerusalem (IOCC) — IOCC's Nora Kort has many years of experience witnessing the poor and desperate conditions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But nothing could have prepared her for her visit to the Al-Masri family of Beit Hanun, one of the poorest and most densely populated areas on the outskirts of Gaza City. “The 10 children had pale faces, decayed teeth and arched backbones, especially the 12 year old girl,” said Kort, IOCC Head of Office for Jerusalem/West Bank. “They were all asking their mother for food and the younger ones were crying of hunger. I opened their fridge to find nothing except a plate of cooked bulgur and half an onion.”

Like hundreds of thousands of Gazans, the father, Eid Aziz Al-Masri lost his job as a laborer in Israel at the outbreak of the 2000 Intifada when Palestinians were no longer allowed permits to enter Israel. Gaza has been rapidly descending into poverty and chaos due to the suspension of international aid, the freezing of salaries of 165,000 Palestinian Authority employees and daily artillery fire from Israel following the June kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Hamas militants. The fear now, says Kort, is that families will not be able to afford to send their children to schools in September. Boys now look for jobs, and girls are sent into early marriages.

But in the midst of this darkness a little opening of light is made by Kort and her Jerusalem IOCC staff through one of their most important outreach programs in the Holy Land, the Gaza Strip Emergency Response Program (GSER). Funded by Hellenic Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece, the program provides medicine, nutrition supplements and diagnostic testing for 350 adults and children who live throughout the Gaza Strip. The medical aid is provided through Ahli Arab Hospital and the Union of Health Care Committees. Hellenic Aid has recently agreed to extend the program with $90,000 in funding.

Kort confirms that food shortages have become so critical in Gaza that many families survive on bread and tea. Medical staff report children suffering from malnutrition, including anemia, weight and iron deficiency. When Kort asked Sharifeh, the 36-year-old mother of the Al-Masri children if her 3-month old baby is benefiting from the donated milk, Mrs. Al-Masri answers that she shares it with all her children for how can she deny the sick ones?

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