Report on Christian institutions in Gaza
03 Feb 2011 By Sami El-Yousef
A two-day visit to Gaza in late August marked my third visit in six months. I was accompanied on this last visit by two staff members from our office in Jerusalem, Gabi Kando, who has made frequent visits to Gaza prior to the last war of December 2008, and Abeer Atallah, who made her first visit ever. I was happy to have company with me on this trip since I thought they can be a bit more objective in their assessment and we can reflect more clearly on what we observe. After a brief and courteous encounter at Erez on the Israeli side and by Hamas on the Palestinian side, we were off to fulfill a rather ambitious schedule to visit as many Christian institutions as possible. In a marathon visit we were able to make 11 site visits, mostly to Christian institutions, listen to their concerns, ambitions, and plans for the future, and try to be as supportive as possible.
Near East Council of Churches (NECC)
A strong partnership ties NECC with Pontifical Mission that dates back over 15 years. Last year in particular, that partnership grew stronger given the blockade and the travel restrictions, our staff could not enter the Gaza Strip for a long time. When the war ended in January 2009, it was not before March 2010 that I was able to make my first visit to Gaza. During that critical period when we needed a partner to implement critical emergency interventions, we counted on NECC to be that solid reliable and accountable partner. A meeting with the members of the executive board was necessary to thank our partners on behalf of our donors for a job well done. The results and impact of our intervention in Gaza after the war — primarily through the NECC — are evident to all. Thus, this was our opportunity to sit face-to-face and evaluate the work that was completed and to project ahead ways to meet the continuing challenges of the coming period. A strategic discussion took place that helped us focus on what needs continue to be unmet and how we can plan ahead for the next 2-3 years to help alleviate the suffering and meet some of those needs. A plan of action was agreed to build on the successes, especially in continuing the “cash assistance program for needy families” as well as embark upon a job creation project for recent university and vocational centers graduates. This will not only put people to work, but also assist institutions to hire new graduates and expand their services. Hopefully, these programs will start in the early part of 2011.
NECC Clinic at Darraj Neighborhood, Gaza City
NECC Darraj Clinic is one of the subsidized clinics of Pontifical Mission, meaning that we provide an annual subsidy toward their operating costs. The clinic was very crowded at the time of our arrival and it is no wonder since it serves a densely populated neighborhood (75,000 residents in a 6 sq.km. area). There are a number of specialized units within the clinic such as prenatal and antenatal care, baby wellness and child care, fertility awareness, general clinic, malnutrition unit, as well as a psychosocial program that assists people who are still coping with the aftermath of the war. Not all units operate every day given the small size of the clinic, but a complex schedule ensures that all specialties are offered every week.