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HelpAge International

August 4, 2009


Latifa. Photo: NAFC/HelpAge International.
An outing to the sea brought some happiness to Latifa.

Older men and women affected by the recent war in Gaza have been voicing their hopes and fears as part of a programme supported by HelpAge International.  

HelpAge International's Palestinian partner, the National Agency for Family Care (NAFC), has been providing food and psychosocial support to older people in Ezbet Abed Rabo, northern Gaza, with funding from Help the Aged raised through the UK Disasters Emergency Committee.

The war in December and January left more than 1,300 people dead, 3,500 injured and 100,000 people displaced. Health facilities, infrastructure and farmland were damaged and services were disrupted, exacerbating already difficult conditions arising from years of sustained conflict and siege.

Lack of services  

Older people in Gaza face particular problems. At least 42% of those aged 65 and over live below the poverty line. Almost half are living with chronic diseases. Yet few services are directed to older people.  

A needs assessment carried out by NAFC highlighted older people's sense of isolation, as well as their need for immediate relief and support to generate an income. NAFC organised food deliveries to 50 displaced older men and women in Ezbet Abed Rabo, and arranged recreational visits to an agricultural area and the sea.

Wish for peace  

More than one in five of the older people had lost husbands, wives, children or grandchildren. Their homes and livelihoods had been destroyed in the war and they could not afford essentials such as food, clothes, medicine or shelter.

Their main wish was to have their homes rebuilt and to live in them before they died, and for their remaining children and grandchildren to have the freedom to move in and out of Gaza . All of them wanted to make the pilgrimage to Mecca .

Some spoke of their wish to see children living outside Palestine , whom they had not seen for several years because of border closures. They all said they wanted the project to continue, especially the recreational days.

"I felt happy"  

Latifa, 82, was one of those who took part in the outings. Her home of thirty years was destroyed in the conflict. Her son's house was also destroyed and one of her grandchildren died. She now lives in rented accommodation some distance away.

"My sons leave me at home alone," she said. "When they go on a trip with their wives, they don't ask me to come. I had never been to the sea before! The only happy things after the war have been the trips with NAFC."

Longer-term plans  

The work with NAFC was part of HelpAge International's first programme in Gaza . It was one of six short-term projects in different parts of Gaza which supported older people by providing with medical aids, including glasses, clearing land for farming, and delivering health services.  

HelpAge International plans to continue working with NAFC to set up community groups led by older men, who traditionally have a leadership role.  

Through these groups, NAFC will provide livelihoods support, home-based care and psychosocial support to older men and women, including training younger people as volunteers. HelpAge International will also help NAFC and medical relief agency, Merlin, to mainstream older people in their work.

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