‘Our next project is a water well’: mayor of Gaza refugees

15 Jun

A gift signifying the building of friendship: Roger Fowler (left), leader of the Kia Ora Gaza team, presents a pounamu taonga to Mohamed Abu-Shkian, mayor of Nuseirat Refugee Camp in central Gaza


by Tali Williams

Kia Ora Gaza convoyer

14 June 2012

The mayor of Nuseirat Refugee Camp in central Gaza looks tired as he addresses the Kia Ora Gaza team.

“We need water. Our next project is to build a water well for the camp,” he says. The last one was struck by an Israeli missile.

His council’s other humble ambitions included some street lighting and paved roads. “We start these projects, but everything must be done bit by bit until the next dollar comes along.”

The economic situation is dire. US$48 million a month is lost due to the siege. Over the past few years many areas important to the economy have been hit by Israeli bombs. We visit factories and farms, critical players in the Gazan economy, that have been targeted.

Half of Gaza’s families live below the poverty line, a figure that has reduced only due to international aid support.

“The children are not resistance fighters, why are they being punished?” a mother asks.

Down at the Nuseirat soccer club, half the building has been torn off as if by a giant hand. Another victim of Israel’s invasion. The playing field is smaller than the average Kiwi backyard, but local student Tareq tells us 1,000 children use this space to play. This evening there are no children, the blackouts have kicked in again and you can’t see the ground.

Reconstruction is almost impossible due to restrictions on construction materials at the borders. Many of the materials needed to complete Nuseirat’s basic projects are banned, even if the money comes as the mayor hopes.

We are here at a historic time. The Egyptian presidential election over the coming few days will play an important role in what happens next for the Gazan economy. If a candidate is elected who permanently opens the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, it would not only mean goods currently under blockade could move through, but more importantly it would create jobs for 80 percent of those unemployed.

Gaza endures the most hardship of any place I have visited.

But somehow, as the bus takes us back across the border to Egypt, I realize almost all the money I had brought in is still in my pockets. That this could happen is testament to the persistent and humbling hospitality of Gaza’s people.

Due to fuel shortages and grinding poverty,animal-pulled carts are seen everywhere in Gaza

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