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Gaza Situation Update
Visit 10-12 February 2015

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Update on Christian Students Scholarship Program:
Besides CNEWA/PMP’s emergency intervention, we also visited other projects currently underway. One such program is the Christian Student’s Scholarship Program which has provided financial aid for needy Christian students studying at Gaza universities since 2010 and has in fact graduated seven students. During this visit, we launched the second phase with 11 needy students who are in need of financial aid. Meeting the students was again one of the highlights of the visit; to hear their stories, frustrations and aspirations especially for the eight women students who are Christian, studying in very Islamic surroundings and dealing with the effects of the Gaza blockade. These young students are also part of an age group (16-35 year olds) who are considered by Israel as a security threat and are barred from entering Israel or the West Bank.

General Observations:
It is never easy visiting Gaza in normal circumstances let alone after a brutal war. To hear people say that “Gaza’s situation as it stands today is worse than it was during the 51-day war in the summer” is quite a depressing statement. However, this was to be expected considering the current state of affairs:

  • Gaza continues to live under a severe blockade which has not improved since the end of the war in August 2014;
  • The Rafah crossing with Egypt is nearly shut-down and only allowed to open for 2-3 days every two months in order to allow the transfer of severe medical cases;
  • Most, if not all tunnels with Egypt have been destroyed meaning that the only supplies going into Gaza are those supplied from Israel at Israeli prices (Egyptian fuel used to sell for about NIS 2.5 per liter while now Israeli prices prevail at about NIS 7 per liter);
  • The cost of all food items and basic commodities are 3-4 times more expensive;
  • No meaningful reconstruction efforts have begun and thus the economy is at near standstill with unemployment reaching 70 percent especially the younger age bracket;
  • Government employee salaries of either Fatah or Hamas continue to be unpaid;
  • Personal debt is at a record high causing serious social and economic problems;
  • Electricity is supplied between 6-8 hours per day;
  • Basic water and sewage infrastructure are still not back to pre-war levels (which was a disaster in the making before the war);
  • There is a lack of basic law and order as poverty gets more rooted and petty theft and crime is on the rise;
  • Islamic fanaticism and the influence from the Islamic State are of great concern to Gazans, especially for the Christian community.

I must admit that the despair and frustration level seems to be very high and is cross-cutting within all areas of society. Six months after the war, hope seems to be lost as people feel completely trapped and see ‘no light at the end of the tunnel’. Most people feel that short of a miracle, the next war is just around the corner!

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