The Unspeakable Loss and Unwavering Dedication of UNRWA Staff

25 August 2014
Shareef Sarhan/UNRWA Archives

UNRWA staff in Gaza face the same danger and loss as the people they serve. Staff have lost colleagues, family and friends. They have had their homes destroyed and their lives devastated.

Over the course of the military escalation, at least 475 children are reported to have been killed. One UNRWA staff member, Amjad Oweida, lost two of his children under particularly tragic circumstances. On 4 August, his five-year-old daughter Amal and 12-year-old son Mohammed were killed in an airstrike in Rafah. The children had insisted on leaving their temporary refuge to return home to feed the doves left behind.

Two weeks after his tragic loss, 42-year-old Amjad describes the moment that scarred his life forever. “I did not know what was happening. I heard the explosion but thought a neighbour's home was hit," he recalls. "People were screaming. We ran out of the house and then I looked around and saw that two of my five children were missing. I ran back when I saw my brother holding my son Mohammed in his arms. He was barely breathing. At that moment my mind froze. I couldn't understand what I saw. I felt completely paralysed.”

Amjad frantically searched for his daughter and found her dead, burnt almost beyond recognition amidst the rubble. “My children were only trying to feed their doves. That’s all. I could not believe that all that was left of my beautiful daughter was something black. I picked up her body and we ran to the hospital. My son died as soon as we arrived.”

Despite his loss, Amjad returned to work immediately to serve the displaced people sheltering in UNRWA Preparatory Boys School A in Rafah, where he usually works as a secretary. In the shelter, he ensures that all 3,400 displaced people get their daily food rations. “Here are people who need me too,” he says.

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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