March 2009, Gaza
Families whose homes were destroyed during the recent offensive in Gaza and are now living in tents face new misery as the heavy rains that have swept Gaza in the past few days have reduced tents to sodden piles of cloth and turned camps in to a quagmire.
Living conditions in the tents were difficult enough before the bad weather hit. Following the offensive five tent camps (Al-Zaitun, Al-Qirim Roundabout, Abedrabbo, Beit Lahia and Al-Rayyan) were set up in the Gaza and Northern areas. Those living in them face cramped conditions, with little privacy and a lack of basic facilities. Mothers in the camp bemoan the fact that their children have no place to study and that food and hot drinks have to be prepared over open fires. For the older residents of the camps, who remember the initial tent camps set up by UNRWA after 1948 it feels as if events have come in a tragic full circle.
The tents provide little protection from the rain, and there is nowhere to keep basic food supplies dry. The rainfall is not as heavy as the rain that hit Gaza in the autumn and caused widespread flooding, but as those in the camps point out they were living in their homes then, built of concrete and metal, not in cloth tents and so did not suffer to such an extent.
Currently the construction of more permanent structures to shelter those who are displaced is severely hampered by the restrictions on building materials entering Gaza. Those living in the camps are aware of the pledges of Gaza aid that are being made, yet at present they have little hope of seeing that aid in the near future, and feel isolated and abandoned. Until the crossings are fully opened and humanitarian aid and materials for rebuilding are allowed in, the only meager hope available is that the rain will stop.