Archive for March 4th, 2012

All around the world refugees and displaced persons have the right to return to their homes and villages of origin after the cessation of hostilities. The United Nations reaffirmed this principle for Palestinian refugees in General Assembly Resolution 194(III), on 11 December 1948. The resolution says that refugees should be able to return to their homes at the earliest possible date and receive compensation. 

Jabalia is the largest of the Gaza Strip’s eight refugee camps. It is located north of Gaza City, close to a village of the same name.

After the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, 35,000 refugees settled in the camp, most having fled from villages in southern Palestine.

Today, nearly 110,000 registered refugees live in the camp, which covers an area of only 1.4 square kilometres.

 It is considered as the poorest, most neglected area of Gaza, and most vulnerable  to incursions and israeli  bombardment due to its proximity to the border.  .  Jabalia camp, , like all the other refugee camps is constructed with tiny narrow pathways, sometimes accessible to only one person at a time and concrete shelters,   built usually with steps to the door to hopefully stave of the regular  flooding of water and or sewage. Residents of Jabalia camp are facing an acute humanitarian  crises because of the siege and war on Gaza . 70 % of Jabalia residents are dependant on aid to survive, Statistics show Jabalia as having the highest rate of poverty and unemployment, with more than 44% living in extreme poverty, and an unemployment rate of 75%. The approximate daily income for many residents of Jabalia and Gaza residents in general is 2 dollars.

And yet, this is what these families must call home for now and for how long? A camp , by definition, is a temporary shelter for the homeless or displaced. The refugees of Jabalia want to go home. They want to provide for their families , offer the best chances to their children, they do not want to rely on aid for the rest of their lives.

Walking around Jabalia camp , you can not but notice how over crowded it is. The street ways between houses are tiny narrow alleys offering no privacy  and even having to move things from or to your home is a logistical nightmare.

The sewage and drainage system is not built to accommodate so many people and this becomes a regularly occurring health and sanitation problem.

 Fresh drinking water, partially supplied by the municipality and partially funded by UNRWA, is limited to 20 litres per person per day, this is for drinking, washing, cleaning , personal use etc.( 90% of water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption)

Everywhere in the camp, the walls are used as ” Notice boards” with messages of upcoming weddings announced, congratulatory messages of people having done ” Haj”, to announcements of the latest ” Shaheed” ( deaths). The dusty , sandy roads are filled with children returning from school or heading towards the next shift of school,( the local UNRWA school’s , are  forced to run double shifts to facilitate all the camp’s students. When some of the children return home it is dark and, given the constant power cuts, lack of space, and loud noise from electrical generators the children are unable to study.),  mothers lining up at the UN building to receive food aid or small market stalls selling produce from the farmers who used to work in Israel and now use their skills to grow their own fruit and veg, partly to feed their families and partly to sell.

A typical example of a “Home ‘ in jabalia consist’s largely of a 3 meter by 3 meter room. A single room act’s as the sleeping, living, studying and eating area for all  family members. The homes are damp and children are regularly ill, the lack now  of fuel and electricity in Gaza exacerbates the problems and poverty, unemployment and despair means depression is also an ever increasing problem. Jabalia is one of the lowest lying area’s in Gaza strip and the lack of fuel to operate the pumps in the station means the threat of flooding is constant,

And yet, while walking around, Our “following ” of curious children grew and grew. Some too shy to do anything but take sneaky looks at us, some trying out their english and greeting us, some friendly enough to eventually slip their hand in mine. We shared the sweets  ( Derek’s) Dad sent with us to Gaza for the children , all were received with perfect manners , thank you or shukran.Not your typical arabic sweets , so some politely refused the second offering but some enjoyed enough to take a second, most noticeably put in to their pockets for later of perhaps for a sibling at home…..

See HANDALA  and the RIGHT OF RETURN !  http://wp.me/PsaGo-16

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Pictures by Jeff Bright,  Face Book : Jeffrey Bright photojournalist


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