“When I reach home from work each day, my kids run towards me and I give them a big hug of relief”

The third blog in our ‘Voices from Gaza’ series comes from Mohammed Al Khatib, MAP’s Senior Programme Manager in Gaza. After being displaced eight times, he is currently sheltering in Rafah with his family. In his blog he reflects on life as a father, husband and humanitarian worker in Gaza, and how to keep going despite constant displacement and Israeli military attacks.

Every day that I am working during the war on Gaza I am painfully split between my work life and my home life. At home, I have my wife and four children waiting for me. The eldest is 13 years old and the youngest is one and a half. When I leave for work, for almost the whole day, we are all burdened with concern for each other’s safety. Phone and internet signals are so unreliable that we are often not able to know how the other is until I return. When I arrive, my children run into my arms and I give them a big hug of relief, glad that we are all safe. I am so scared of a day when something else will be waiting for me at home.  

When I say home, I mean wherever we are staying at the time, as we have already been displaced eight times in seven months due to the war. We were forced from Gaza City to Khan Yunis, and then to Rafah, where there is now an ongoing ground invasion, so who knows what’s next. The uncertainty and fear of danger is a constant stress, we are all terrified and exhausted. Nobody knows where to go or what to do. The insecurity is always on my mind and continuing a normal life in Gaza is extremely difficult.

TAKE ACTION TO STOP THE INVASION OF RAFAH

Our experiences are the same as every family trying to exist in Gaza. There is the constant sound of bombs, and all the buildings have broken windows and cracked doors. Our own home in Gaza City was bombed by the Israeli military while we were inside. I lost two family members. Many of the locations I have moved to since have been directly targeted, even within the so-called “humanitarian corridor” leading towards the south. I have been lucky to survive so far.

My children are always scared of the noises of war and will come running to me or their mother when the noises are very loud or close. Once, my daughter asked me, “Baba, do the people on the other side ever sleep, as they are doing the bombing day and night?”. I just tried to laugh about it and change the subject to something funny to take away her concerns. But it was disturbing to me, to hear a child ask such things about nearby soldiers. 

MAP was one of the first organisations to respond to the current emergency, and support the health system to deal with the overwhelming number of patients and their injuries. Throughout Israel’s military bombardment and siege of Gaza we have released prepositioned medical items to hospitals, organised medical shipments from abroad and brought in emergency medical teams of volunteer doctors. They have been working alongside local health teams to provide emergency care for injured people.

We have also been coordinating with local partners to support the many thousands of internally displaced people facing hunger, homelessness and attacks. We have set up medical points inside refugee camps, and provided essential hygiene and dignity kits. Due to the onset of famine conditions, we are also looking at how to support people with their nutrition.

“We were forced from Gaza City to Khan Yunis, and then to Rafah, where there is now an ongoing ground invasion, so who knows what’s next.”

I am proud to be part of MAP’s response in Gaza and to provide this vital support to people in need. It is what I set out to do every day when I leave the house. But the reality is that to do this humanitarian work I have to constantly contest with so many logistical and security concerns. I am always out on field visits to meet with people in need and to coordinate action with our partners. We are working in areas which could be designated as ‘green zones’ today and the next day they could be ‘red zones’.

In many cases we have planned to respond to health and humanitarian needs in a certain location, only for that area to come under attack and become inaccessible. We face so many delays, delays which can mean life or death for someone. On one trip to Khan Yunis my team was caught up in a sequence of attacks next to us, we were trapped in a flurry of explosions, shrapnel, debris and smoke, but luckily no-one was seriously injured. This work is so difficult.

It has also been almost impossible for us to intervene in the north of Gaza, even though we know there are people in urgent need there, including our colleagues and families. Our inability to adequately help those in need is a heavy burden on all of us and it makes us feel terrible. This sadness and frustration is compounded by the need to be responsible for the lives of people around us, including our team. For me, this includes the lives of my family that I have to leave behind every day without ever being sure of what will happen next.

All of these challenges weigh heavy on every humanitarian’s shoulders in Gaza. Still, we strive to do whatever we can, no matter what.

When I heard about the humanitarian workers from World Central Kitchen who were attacked, I felt so sorry for them because they were people who had come here to help and show common humanity in difficult times. They thought they were safe, their families and their organisations thought they were safe. But here in Gaza, where so many innocent people have lost their lives and where thousands of children have been killed, no one is safe. That sadly is the risk that us humanitarians working here must be willing to take.

As a humanitarian worker, I would love to be able to properly conduct my work and ease the lives of people in need. There are so many people in need right now, from internally displaced families to patients in hospitals, they all need protection and for us to provide them with support. I would love to know that my family, my loved ones, are not in danger. This is not possible. It will never be possible until we have an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

MAP’s team in Gaza were among the first to respond to the current emergency and remain one of the only international organisations working to provide humanitarian and medical services, including in the north. Please support our emergency response today.

DONATE

This is the third of our ’Voices from Gaza’ blog series where we hear from members of MAP’s team in Gaza. Stay tuned for next week’s blog.

Photo: Mohammed Al Khatib (centre), MAP’s Senior Programme Manager in Gaza.

Stay updated – join our mailing list

* indicates required
Your Interests