From Despair to Hope: Gaza's Exceptional Graduates Shine Light on Innovation and Resilience

27 June 2023
The Software and Database Graduates from the Faculty of Information Technology celebrate their graduation at the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre. Their supervisor Mahmoud Hassouna (middle) joins the graduates on this happy occasion.   © 2023 UNRWA Photo by Rawan Rantisi.

Blog by: Rajaa Jadili

The 16th anniversary of the blockade on Gaza – marked throughout the month of June - reflects profoundly throughout the small enclave. The blockade has cast a dark shadow over the lives of Palestine Refugees, perpetuating a state of chronic crisis. Poverty levels remain alarmingly high, with a staggering 81 per cent of Palestine Refugee households in Gaza living below the poverty line.[i] Nearly one in three children in Gaza suffers from post-traumatic stress. [ii]

In this climate of despair, hope emerged from an unexpected source – a group of recent graduates of the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre. These exceptional individuals have just completed their studies in the field of Information Technology, specializing in software and databases. Their remarkable graduation project- a mobile and computer application for nursing homes – is born out of an unwavering determination to acquire knowledge.

The project has a dual purpose: to serve nursing home staff and the community at large.  The application showcases the comprehensive range of services provided by the nursing home, allowing the community to access and apply for the appropriate care. At the same time, it revolutionizes the work processes for the nursing home staff. The application facilitates seamless patient follow-up by enabling the input and recording of patients' data, vital signs, and reports. Nurses and administrative personnel can transmit this crucial information directly to doctors and the administration, even while working remotely.

Mahmoud Hassouna, an esteemed Information Management Engineer at the Gaza Training Centre and the supervisor of these talented graduates, speaks with great pride about their groundbreaking contribution. He emphasizes, "This is the first time our students have participated in automating the work system of a hospital. It is a great honor for us at the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre to witness the extraordinary capabilities and creativity of our graduates, despite the immense challenges they face in this tightly constrained enclave and the limited opportunities surround them."

More than 15 years of blockade have effectively destroyed the economy in Gaza. The official unemployment rate is 45 percent.  More than 40 percent are severely food insecure. Two years ago, ten percent of the population were classified as the poorest of the poor; it is now 29 percent of the population. Among the graduates is Tareq al-Terry. "As a graduate of the GTC, I felt an inherent responsibility to translate the vast knowledge and skills I acquired during my two years at the center. I am immensely proud of the work my team and I have accomplished. In a region plagued by disheartening unemployment rates, borne out of years of economic blockade, our project serves as a beacon of hope and an entry point into the local market. We are committed to further refining and expanding our project, continuously striving to serve our people and families with unwavering dedication."

While the blockade's anniversary serves as a stark reminder of the hardships endured by the people of Gaza, these graduates embody the unwavering spirit of their community. Armed with their exceptional education and a commitment to making a difference, they demonstrate that even in the face of adversity, innovation and determination can flourish. They stand as a testament to the power of education as a catalyst for change, endeavoring to carve a path towards a brighter future -  one project at a time.

[i] Proper format for Gaza Crisis Monitoring Report December 2022, co-authored by UNRWA/ PCBS...

[ii] Following the May 2021 hostilities and based on a survey conducted by UNRWA in 2021, 42 per cent of surveyed UNRWA first-grade school children in the Gaza Strip were in need of psychosocial support from war-related trauma.  Even nine months after the May 2021, hostilities, 35 per cent of the children were still suffering from reactions to trauma. The August 2022 escalation of hostilities, that took place as Palestine refugees in Gaza continued the gradual recovery process from the hostilities of May 2021, left many experiencing severe psychological trauma. A recent study of the UNRWA Mental Health and Psychosocial Support unit indicated that 38.2 per cent of children suffer from functional impairment long after exposure to these traumatic events.