Islamic Relief has been operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 1998, providing humanitarian support to communities affected deeply by 53 years of occupation and long periods of economic blockade.
The ongoing impact of occupation, blockades and periodic escalations in violence have had a devastating impact on infrastructure and livelihoods in Gaza and the West Bank, taking an enormous toll on the physical and mental wellbeing of Palestinians. In a total population of two million, a staggering 70% of people under 30 in Gaza are unemployed, 53% of the population live below the poverty line and 80% rely on outside aid to survive.
For the past 22 years, Islamic Relief has been a lifeline for Palestinians, providing support through their daily struggles for survival, delivering lifesaving aid in emergencies and giving families hope for a better future.
In 2008, within hours of the start of the 22-day conflict that devastated lives in Gaza, Islamic Relief was on the ground distributing desperately needed aid. We remained one of the few agencies working on the ground throughout the conflict. In the years that followed, as a global family we have delivered a $53 million emergency response and reconstruction program that included equipping and renovating the intensive care units and emergency departments of nine hospitals.
In 2012, as part of our global emergency response to the escalation of another conflict, we delivered approximately $1.8 million worth of medical supplies to hospitals as they received casualties. In 2014, the day after conflict broke out once again, our teams provided medicine and equipment to hospitals and distributed food, water, soap, towels and other essentials to 15,700 displaced people.
Winter is a testing time for Rizq and his family
Rizq and his family have been living in a shelter made of metal sheets since their home was destroyed in the 2014 conflict in Gaza. In the winter of 2019, as temperatures plummeted to below five degrees Celsius, Rizq’s family found themselves without enough heating or blankets, struggling to survive the harsh weather.
Unfortunately their story is far from an isolated case. According to a survey by Shelter Cluster, 23% of Gazan families live in dilapidated housing, while a further 27% live in homes that damage their health.
“I have been suffering since 2014 especially when the winter comes…after the conflict, everything was destroyed. All the things that I had fixed and repaired in our home were destroyed,” says Rizq.
Such poor housing conditions increase the likelihood of contracting harmful infections and developing respiratory problems. Inadequate shelter is also impacting the mental health and wellbeing of families and disrupting children’s education.
Every winter, Islamic Relief helps vulnerable families like Rizq’s survive the harsh weather by repairing homes, providing heating and giving them warm clothes, mattresses and bedding.
Highlights of our current work in Gaza
Islamic Relief is working to empower communities, help rebuild livelihoods and provide opportunities for children and young people in Gaza. In collaboration with partner agencies such as Sida (the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), Islamic Relief is providing both emergency aid and long-term development support to help improve the lives of those worst affected by the ongoing crisis.
On average, we spend around $17.6 million a year on supporting people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In 2019 alone, as a global family we provided lifesaving aid to almost 400,000 people in Gaza.
Our main priorities are providing access to food, education and shelter, as well as improving livelihoods and ensuring protection for the vulnerable.
Our global program team works tirelessly to help families lift themselves out of poverty and live as dignified a life as possible in a region where the population is increasingly dependent on outside aid.
For more than two decades Islamic Relief has been working with traumatised children to improve their physical and mental health, offering some sort of normality through access to support facilities and sponsorship programs, while improving education and employment prospects for young people. Our teams on the ground have also been working to improve the curriculum at pre-school level, ensuring the educational framework gives Palestinian children the best possible start in life.
‘The Russul centre, which Islamic Relief has established in Nussairat, is considered to be an innovation lighthouse where it takes care of the most marginalised children. It embraces a unique approach that targets talented children with different interventions that add value to their and their community’s life’ The Middle Area Parents Council.
Islamic Relief is also currently supporting over 7,000 children through our global orphan sponsorship program, providing them and their families with invaluable financial assistance. This means that vulnerable children can get an education, have their medical and other needs taken of, and work towards a brighter future.
’Some of the young children we sponsored many years ago have now graduated from university or received training and internship opportunities through our programs. As far as they can remember, Islamic Relief has always been a part of their life.’
– Eman Al Madhoun, Islamic Relief’s Orphan Sponsorship Officer in Gaza.
Beyond Gaza, Islamic Relief has also been a lifeline for displaced Palestinian families as well as those taking refuge in neighbouring countries like Lebanon and Jordan. We help provide safe homes and shelter, winter survival items, access to education, access to healthcare and mental health services for traumatised children.
Support for Palestinians must continue
Working in one of the most volatile regions in the world, Islamic Relief is committed to supporting those affected by this protracted crisis through the many challenges they face. Every escalation of violence and the ongoing struggles of life under blockade bring new trauma and setbacks as Palestinians work hard to make the best of their lives in the face of extreme hardship and poverty.
For an entire generation, Islamic Relief has been a household name, a lifeline and an answer to prayer in times of enormous need. We have supported those worst affected for more than two decades, and this vital work must continue.