At the end of the horrible 22 days of bombing that caused much damage to the livelihood of Palestinian families living in Gaza, ANERA resumed its Milk for Preschoolers Program (MfP) activities.
In two weeks, ANERA distributed vitamin-fortified snacks of milk and biscuits to 25,200 children at 184 preschools in Gaza.
ANERA’s staff in Gaza has been visiting the preschools, assessing their physical condition and the well-being of their pupils.
During a recent visit to northern Gaza, Mona Abu Ramadan, MfP Manager, dropped in at the Atfal Beit Hanoun preschool, one of the best preschools participating in the program. It has been devastated by shelling, as the school happens to be adjacent to a police station that was the target in an air strike.
“The children showed us their damaged classroom where their new music instruments, books, and other school stuff lies underneath the rubble along with their toys,” said Ramadan. “The scene was terribly shocking. We stood speechless in the damaged dining room which used to be the most beautiful one in the school, festooned with many ornaments and colorful decorations. This was where the children used to have their daily milk and biscuits.”
Pointing to the remnants of the room, the children wondered where they will have their meals from now on. Because the room is linked in their young minds with tasty milk and biscuits, five-year-old Alia worried that she might never have her snacks again. Luckily for Alia and her classmates, ANERA has resumed deliveries to the preschool.
On another visit, to Al Zohoor Preschool in Beit Lahia, also affected by shelling, the children have lost their toys, books and everything else.
Qusai, a four-year-old, explained that he and his family had to get out of their house in a hurry. “See my finger? I cut it while I was trying to get my toys from underneath our house, which was a big pile of rubble.”
Little Hamza has beautiful green eyes. His family lost their house, but what makes him most sad is that his bookbag does not exist anymore. Now he has to carry his notebook and crayons around in a plastic bag. Many other children brought their notebooks to school in empty rice bags.
Distributing milk seems to be the only thing left that makes the children happy. They have seen so much devastation, but they still smiled when they saw the little cartons they had been missing for 22 days.
“When we went back to the ANERA office,” said Ramadan, “it was with mixed feelings. We were so happy to see the children at their preschools again. But it was terribly sad to see the harm children and their preschools were exposed to.”