Acting for peace in a war zone 

Here’s a glimpse into the reality of living in a war zone as seen through the eyes of our heroic partners. Learn about the devastating impact that conflict has on people who are without a safe place to belong and how we’re supporting the people of Gaza through this catastrophic time.

The most recent escalation of conflict has seen Israel invade Rafah and according to the UN, as of May 15, nearly 600,000 people have been displaced from Rafah.

The unimaginable cost of war

Tens of thousands of lives have been lost and over 1.7 million people forcibly displaced. Nearly all of the people living in Gaza lack access to shelter, food, medical services, clean water, education and income. The longer the conflict continues, the more the needs grow at an alarming rate as disease spreads and 2.2 million people are at risk of starvation.

Being committed to acting for peace means being present in the world’s darkest places, during people’s greatest hour of need. Places like war-torn Gaza where people don’t have a safe place to belong.

The only way Act for Peace can achieve this is through long-term partnerships with local organisations. In Gaza, we continue to stand with our partners, the Near East Council of Churches (NECC) and the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR), who, despite their own individual losses, are working tirelessly to provide vital humanitarian assistance and protection to the civilians of Gaza.

Nowhere is safe

DSPR has been providing primary health and dental care, emergency cash support, medicine, hygiene kits and psychosocial support. Their clinic in Rafah, in the south, has been providing vital health support for over 500 patients a day. With an original population of just 230,000, Rafah has been inhabited intensively by 1.5 million people who have been forcibly displaced. It should be a safe area, but Israel’s ground invasion of Rafah has now ramped up and aid has been cut off. Many Palestinians are attempting to leave what was considered the last safe place in the war-torn region.

DSPR has paused their services and evacuated staff, equipment and medicine and are now providing services through mobile clinics. They have also repaired and reopened a damaged clinic site in North Gaza to provide primary health care. On their first day of operation in the newly repaired clinic on May 6, they treated 80 patients and another 240 on the second day. DSPR’s Executive Director, Nader Abu Amsha says the past seven months of conflict has proven that nowhere is safe anymore.

Gaza has been obliterated with buildings reduced to rubble. Photo: DSPR/NECC

“It’s an unprecedented situation,” says Nader. “Many buildings get hit by airstrikes, including the building near our clinic. We believe it’s really genocide. It’s a catastrophic situation. We have never witnessed something like this, not just in Palestine or in Gaza but in the contemporary history of humanity.”

Despite the huge safety risks, DSPR staff remain committed to providing emergency support for those who need it most.

“Our staff, we call them our heroes, because they’re working and they need security and support themselves … but they are jeopardising their security and their family life, to come and help and serve the community who are living in this unprecedented situation,” says Nader.

DSPR staff providing hygiene training. Photo: ACT Alliance / DSPR.

The challenges of operating in a war zone

Aside from the huge safety risks, operating in a war zone poses multiple challenges when it comes to getting humanitarian aid to the people who need it most.

According to Nader, the availability of resources is extremely limited and costs are astronomical.

“We are running a clinic and there is no public electricity, it’s been cut since the beginning of the Israeli occupation,” he says. “They cut off water, electricity, internet and phone connections. We have a generator and it’s now the only source of power for our clinic. And fuel is very limited. We have to buy fuel from the black market for 12 times higher than we used to buy it.”

Now, more than ever, we are committed to providing ongoing support for DSPR so they can continue their lifesaving work in Gaza, providing hope when everything seems hopeless.

The value of hope

When people give to our Gaza appeal, Nader says the money is saving lives.

“It’s lifesaving money for hundreds of thousands of people who are living on the edge of life,” he says.

“Restoring hope is crucially important now. Being there and offering caring and helping hands is keeping hope alive for many people who are in need.”

Our supporters are providing survivors with glimpses of hope through their love in action. According to Nader, what might seem like small acts of generosity – a hygiene kit, or emergency cash support – can make a world of difference to people living in the war zone.

Just weeks ago, a woman received a hygiene kit after attending a health awareness session run by DSPR staff. Nader says the dignity and hope represented in that kit is unimaginable.

“She said, ‘I’m now going to wash my kids’ hair with shampoo for the first time in six months,’” Nader says.

Nader also recounts the story of a grandfather who received $200 in emergency cash support.

“He said, ‘I am an old man, and my wife got killed and now I care for my little grandchildren, and I can’t fight for any kind of food support … Your $200 changed my life. Now I [can buy] food for my grandchildren.’”

Addressing the psychological wounds

The scenes of death and destruction have been harrowing to watch from the safety of our homes, but for people living the reality, month after month, the psychological impact is also catastrophic.

DSPR is also focusing on providing psychological support, especially for women and children. Mental health staff and volunteers run small group sessions and large play sessions for children and provide psychological first aid. The support groups include conscious breathing techniques, stress management, group games, and family activities. In just one week, over 4,500 people took part in these programs in UN shelters in the south.

The sessions, including fun activities like a clown show, aim to provide a safe space for children to provide some psychological relief and normalcy, while also bringing joy and restoring hope.

DSPR staff bringing joy to children in the middle of the war zone. Photo: ACT Alliance/ DSPR.

As the world waits with bated breath for the conflict to end, Nader issues a heartfelt plea for solidarity and raised voices.

“We believe that human beings should be concerned about what’s taking place,” he says. “Our message is that we want your voice to be stronger. For justice. Not for Palestinians, not for Israelis, not for Christians or Muslims or Jews we want it for peace and for truth and for justice and for humanity,

We continue to work with our partners to provide lifesaving humanitarian support in Gaza. We are committed to raising our voices and encouraging you to raise yours. Together we call for a ceasefire and lasting peace because we believe everyone deserves a safe place to belong.

Give to our Gaza Appeal Gaza Emergency – Act for Peace

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