Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

ANERA Employee Gives Students a Glimpse of Daily Life in Gaza

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

ANERA Employee Gives Students a Glimpse of Daily Life in Gaza

Article excerpt

Rania Elhilou, American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA)'s communications officer in Gaza, shared her first-hand view of the humanitarian crisis back home with students at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs on April 19. ANERA supporters may recall eloquent notes Elhilou posted during "Operation Cast Lead," Israel's 23-day attack on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009. Who can forget Elhilou's descriptions of her apartment windows shattering and of her sleeping on a mattress in the cold, nearly running out of food, and hearing helicopters, planes and dropping bombs?

Seeing her in person, looking unscathed and normal at this event sponsored by the Middle East Policy Forum, was a great relief-until she described the new normal in Gaza. Daily life is grim at home, she said, and civilians are still the target of mortar fire, frequent power outages and shortages of everything due to Israel's relentless six-year blockade.

The unemployment rate in Gaza remains among the highest in the world: 45 percent of Gazans of working age have no jobs and no way to enter neighboring Egypt or Israel to work. Seven out of 10 live on $1 a day, and 80 percent rely on food assistance.

The Gaza power plant can't operate normally because there is little fuel. With only six hours of electricity a day, Elhilou said, she has to work frantically doing her numerous duties for both ANERA and her children before the lights go off. There is no gas for cars or delivery trucks. …

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