oPt: Refugee Stories - Flooding adds to Gaza misery

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Rain is traditionally a good omen in Palestinian culture. However, for Palestinians in the Gaza strip, the heavy rains and storms that began on the 27th October spelt disaster.

After a summer drought heavy rains began on the evening of the 27th. Gaza's poor drainage networks, which are in urgent need of repair, were swiftly overwhelmed and streets and houses in Northern and Southern Gaza were soon underwater. Beach camp and Jabalia camp were particularly badly affected. By the morning of the 28th the streets of Jabalia were filled with water and sewage, trapping many residents inside their homes.

Asma Mohd Khuwaiter, is Palestinian refugee living in Beach Camp. His family of eight live in a dilapidated house, consisting of one main room, a kitchen and a bathroom. Fayza, Asma's daughter described the conditions in which the family live, "My Father is sick and suffers from Asthma and could not work. Our living conditions are very hard where the family lives only on UNRWA food assistance as the family is registered as Special Hardship Case. I go every day walking for more than two kilometers to the university as family cannot afford transportation."

The floods added to the family's difficulties, within hours of the rain beginning the house was under a foot of water. Asma's wife said "We could not believe it. The water covered the beds and mattresses and more was coming in through the ceiling. It was midnight and I and my eldest sons hurried to evacuate the kids who were sleeping. The rooms were filled with water, which made it hard to rescue the kids".

This is by no means the first time that Gaza has been hit by floods. The area is regularly affected by heavy rains in the winter. Poor sewerage systems, dilapidated roads and shoddy drainage mean that flooding occurs all too often. In March 2007 heavy rains led to the collapse of a sewage pit in the Gazan village of Umm al-Naser. Five people were killed in what the international press dubbed a 'sewage tusnami'.

The infrastructure of the Gaza Strip, ravaged by years of fighting and the current blockade, is in urgent need of repair. However, restrictions make it almost impossible to import the necessary building materials needed. During the most recent floods UNRWA Emergency Teams were activated throughout the Strip. An UNRWA Emergency Shelter was established in the north for families whose homes had been particularly affected by the flooding and UNRWA provided 30,000L of diesel to assist in running generators for sewage and storm water pumps. However, until it is possible to carry out proper repairs in Gaza there is little UNRWA can do to hold back the floods, it can only help people weather the storm.

To read about Flood ordeal for Palestinians stuck on Iraq-Syria border then follow the link below. http://www.unhcr.org/news/NEWS/4909c9a04.html