New Winter Clothes Keep Children of Gaza Warm
After the devastation of the 2014 Gaza war, the need for winter clothing is even higher than normal in Gaza because so many families lost their homes and their belongings.
As families left the Lady Fashion clothing store in Gaza City carrying bags filled with new jackets, gloves, hats, socks and pajamas, it looked like a big sale was happening. But it wasn’t a sale that drew the crowd—It was Anera’s Gaza winter relief program, which included clothing vouchers to redeem at local shops.
“When winter arrives, I usually come and look at the shop windows. I fill my eyes with all the colorful products, knowing I’ll go home empty-handed because the prices are way beyond my budget,” said Nabila Al-Thalathini.
This time, she entered the shop and picked out clothes for her four-year-old daughter, Khitam.
We couldn’t salvage anything from under the rubble of our destroyed home in Shejaiya.
After the devastation of the 2014 Gaza war, the need for winter clothing is even higher than normal because so many families lost their homes and their belongings. “We couldn’t salvage anything from under the rubble of our destroyed home in Shejaiya,” Nabila said.
Gaza Shop Owners Grateful for Voucher Program
Shop owner Nimer Shamali described the scene in his Lady Fashion store as astonishing. “It reminds me of the holiday celebrations when Omar al-Mokhtar Street gets very crowded. It is one of Gaza’s busiest roads, but during holidays it’s jammed with families out buying new clothes for Eid,” he said. “However, the recent war caused us to miss two festive seasons,” he sighed.
He explained that he and other shop owners had been depressed because of the lack of sales and bad business. “Even though the streets are sometimes packed with families, most just look and do not buy,” he said. “Most shop owners borrowed money to buy large quantities of clothes made in China or Turkey that they hoped to sell at holiday time, but some lost their business during the war and others are struggling to sell the merchandise without much luck.”
To date, Anera has distributed over 3,000 clothing vouchers to impoverished families in Gaza City, Beit Hanoon, Khan Younis and Rafah.
As a resident of the war-ravaged Shejaiya, Nimer also also shares the pain and despair that hangs over the neighborhood where so many families were left with hardly anything to face the harsh winter cold.
“With Anera clothing vouchers, we can provide the most impoverished families with new clothing,” Nimer said. He smiled and added, “It is very innovative because we are not giving prepared packages of clothing. We are giving people a choice so they can select what best meets their children’s needs.”
Reaching More Gaza Children with Warm Clothes
Anera rented four warehouses in different locations around Gaza to hold the enormous supply of clothing, so those who live far away could get the items they needed without the cost and hardship of transportation. At each warehouse, 10 workers were on hand to help the families find what they needed.
The clothing vouchers, provided with funding from UMCOR, were also made available to some of the 300 Palestinian refugee families from the Syrian conflict who have sought safety in Gaza.
Grandmother Nadia and her seven-year-old grandson, Saed Foura, fled Syria and went first to Egypt, but political turmoil there made things difficult for them, and they sought refuge in Gaza. “From conflict to war, this is our life,” explains Nadia. “We came to Shejaiya two years ago. Life is tough here, especially without a steady source of income.”
Nadia and Saed left the store with a new set of clothing and big smiles on their faces. “I’ll wear the new jacket for school,” Saed said.
Grandmother Nabila watched him with pride and relief. “Welcoming the winter with new clothing erases some of the bitterness over our harsh reality. It’s a glimpse of hope for a better future.”