25 January 2010
Shocking. That’s all that can be said of the sight of al Mughraqa, Gaza, an area severely affected by the flooding that devastated areas of Gaza last Monday.
Most of the residents of Mughraqa, near Nuseirat camp, are refugees with no land of their own. Many live in temporary shelters or tents with the sheep, camels, chicken and other livestock on whose produce they depend. Nuzha Al Rash survived Monday’s floods, along with her husband Fayez and four children.
“It hit us when the dark started,” she explains. “I heard some loud speakers, telling people to leave their homes, because the wadi – the water – was coming.
“I woke up my children and hurried out, and saw lots of people running and shouting. The only thing I could think about was to run away with my children and husband."
Fayez helped Nuzha and the kids outside, telling them to keep going while he went back to collect the family's sheep and chicken. But on reaching their home, he found the water level approaching two metres and he was forced to move away. All of Fayez’s animals were drowned.
Now Fayez, Nuzha and their young children are taking refuge at one of the local government schools. Beyond this temporary option, they have no other place to go. Fayez is utterly depressed at the loss of his home and livelihood. “These were my only means of making a living for my family,” he says. “Now I have no idea how I am going to feed my children or provide their basic needs.
"The only good thing from all this is that my family is safe.”
The couple’s children are unable to fall asleep; when they do manage, they are plagued by nightmares. Five-year-old Abdel, their youngest, says: “my mum woke me up after I was feeling warm. There was too much water, I could feel it, and it was too dark and many people were shouting. It was scary.”
Abdel adds that he feels very sad, because he wasn’t able to salvage his new shoes, or indeed any socks. “It is very cold, and my feet are bare.”
UNRWA is supplying the family with mattresses, blankets and some clothing, as well as a hygiene kit, and food parcels. Schools in Gaza are currently closed for the winter holiday, so the family can stay put for now, surviving on the help they have received. But when term begins in ten days' time, Nuzha and family will be searching for a place where they can live, or at least sleep, while they recover from the devastating effects of the flood.