Responding to the urgent needs of the poor and displaced people in Gaza, ANERA received $600,000 from USAID through Associates in Rural Development.
The grant intends to distribute 11,000 hygiene packages to those living in temporary shelters and tent camps in northern and central Gaza. This was ANERA’s third such relief project with ARD since the January invasion. The first two ARD shipments were food packages valued at $1 million which benefited 6,400 needy families (read more).
HYGIENE PRODUCTS FOR THE FIRST TIME
It’s hard to imagine worrying about finding your special brand of shampoo or that favorite toothpaste you always use, when there are families in Gaza who not only consider such things an extravagance, but for some it is something they have never had.
In the middle of a rural area in Deir El-Bahlah, known for its palms and agriculture, Um Tamer lives in a disheveled, two-room house, along with her husband and her five daughters and two sons. Her house was severely affected by the recent war. Plaster flakes off her doors and there are holes in walls with no windows. This means the family feels the chill of the approaching winter.
It is ” like living in the street,” Um Tamer said.“This happens a lot in winter, especially when it rains heavily. Each time this happens, we have to rebuild again.”
When Um Tamer learned the hygiene package contained towels, shampoo, toothpaste and brushes, she said that her family had never used shampoo or toothpaste before. “We use Pril, the dishwashing liquid, which we dilute with water. It costs five shekels ($1.50) We use it for our personal hygiene: we wash our hair, bodies, and sometimes our teeth. There are so many items that we need and they are all expensive,” she said. “We can’t afford to buy soap and toothpaste.”
Um Tamer’s husband works as a taxi driver. He barely earns enough money to put bread on the table. Their son, Tamer, recently changed universities from Gaza City to one closer to home in Deir El-Balah due to the high cost of transportation. He borrowed money to pay the tuition for his first semester. Simon, her eldest daughter, just finished high school but is unable to attend the university because she cannot afford it.
“I have a dream to join the school of journalism. I always dreamed of going to university. I know that my father can’t pay for me and my brother,” she said. Regarding the hygiene kits Simon recalled, “I can’t remember ever using shampoo since I was a child. My father has a heavy burden on his shoulders and we all try to help ease it.”
A few minutes later, her 12-year-old brother Nodal, came home from school. He smiled widely when he saw the toothpaste, showing his yellowed teeth. He quickly took toothpaste and told his mom that this is his favorite item.
Um Tamer was grateful but wished for another important item. “This is a very important package, but I wish there could be diapers for my year and a half old child.” However, “The package came at the right time for the right people and we need you keep up this very important support.”
People flocked to Al-Najda Society in Gaza, one of ANERA’s distribution points, to receive their relief packages. These were not the food packages so common in Gaza. Instead, they contained a three-month supply of hygiene products – bath towels, shampoo, hand soap, feminine hygiene products and toothbrushes. With the crossing points between Gaza and Israeli mostly closed, such products are hard to come by nowadays. The estimated cost of each parcel is about $70, which is costly for many families in Gaza where some 40% are unemployed.
“The hygiene products are no less important than food. They are necessary for our survival,” said Nihaya, a housewife. “The contents of the packages are so expensive – there are a lot of things we need in them.”
Inside the reception room, two women, Suad and Najah, sat and waited patiently for their ID numbers to be called. Despite clear signs of fatigue, a reflection of the tough conditions they face daily, they both agreed it was worth coming to receive their package.
“This package is essential. We need food and we need hygiene. I have a lot of kids. I have to keep them clean. The hardest part of having so little money in my pocket is that I have to choose between buying food to fill their empty stomach or buying hygiene products,” said Najah, a mother of 15 children. Najah and her extended family now live in a small, charitable shelter in Beit Lahia, as their house was totally destroyed during the invasion of Gaza.
“If I had 10 shekels, I would buy a half kilo of tomatoes, fry them or prepare a salad to feed my children. The cheapest toothpaste here costs that much. The harsh conditions of life force me to make food the top priority,” said Suad, a mother of 10 children, her youngest child just one-year old. “Thanks for giving us the hygiene package. My favorite item is the fragrant soap. If you asked me, I would also like the package to contain insect repellent and toilet paper.”