Aid worker returns to Gaza to help those affected by conflict

Jo Harrison with her friend, Kamal, in Gaza PNL-140822-134628001
Jo Harrison with her friend, Kamal, in Gaza PNL-140822-134628001

An aid worker who has lived in Gaza has returned to the place she once called home.

Former Buckingham resident Jo Harrison, is a communications advisor for the charity Action Aid, a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

She lived and worked in Gaza for much of 2013 and made plenty of friends during her stay, and has since moved to stay in Jordan.

But since renewed conflict broke out between Gaza and Israel last month, Miss Harrison, said she had been ‘glued’ to her television screen, watching the streets of the place she once called home turn to rubble.

She has now returned to Gaza to help in the relief effort. The most recent conflict has seen the death of around 2,000 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.

Miss Harrison said those in Gaza who had survived were lacking basic supplies such as water and food while hospitals were running out of medical supplies.

The DEC has launched an appeal to help the 1.8 million people affected by the conflict.

Miss Harrison said: “Over 16,700 houses have been severely or entirely destroyed, leaving 100,000 without a home.

“That’s the equivalent of almost 700 people becoming homeless overnight in Buckingham alone.”

She added one of her friends, Kamal, had also been affected by the conflict.

“He has been working as a driver and had managed to build a home for himself and his family,” she said. “He tended to his garden and would lovingly care for the animals he kept in his backyard.

“His home was a symbol of his hard work and a hope for a better future for him and his children. I spent many evenings with Kamal and his family who would welcome visitors with warm food and good company.

“Kamal had to flee from his family home when the violence erupted, taking his children, wife and elderly mother with him. He returned during a short ceasefire to find his home destroyed and the animals he cared for amongst the rubble.

“However, Kamal considers himself as one of the lucky ones. He is alive. And his family are until today, safe.”

Miss Harrison said aid agencies were working to make sure those affected had access to water and food including distributing food vouchers to families and money for fuel to partners to ensure water could be pumped into shelters.

“It’s almost unfathomable to imagine losing your wife, husband, parents or children and your home and all the memories that it held,” Miss Harrison said. “Then having to take shelter in a school with thousands of people and where 80 other people are living in just one classroom.

“This week, I will see that reality. I will think of what it would be like for my mother who has a bad leg, having to flee her home, or the dignity my father would lose having use humanitarian aid as a means to provide for the family.”

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