The Israeli blockade enforced on the Gaza Strip in 2007 has negatively affected all aspects of normal life. The people living in Gaza have to endure hostile environments on a daily basis; including their freedom of movement where Palestinians inside Gaza are not allowed to leave to the extent that fisherman can only go 3-6 nautical miles of the coast to fish, prohibiting trade to and from Gaza destroying industry and allowing Israeli companies to make a profit of $375 million monopolising the supply of goods into Gaza, restricting vital healthcare and educational supplies keeping stocks of medication and equipment to the bare minimum allowing the population to barely survive, there are continuous food and fuel shortages where 10% of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition; 90% of the water available is regarded unsafe to drink by international standards and there is access to only 4 hours of electricity a day. Under no circumstances can this be regarded as acceptable human treatment.
Palestinians in Gaza under the age of 10 have already experienced 3 wars; 2009, 2012 and 2014. Operation Cast Lead in 2009 resulted in the deaths of 1,417 Palestinians and over 8,000 people were wounded. The IDF destroyed 4,000 homes, 600–700 factories, small industries, workshops and business enterprises, 24 mosques, 31 security compounds, and 10 water or sewage lines. 34 health facilities and over 50 UN facilities were damaged. Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012 resulted in 107 civilian casualties and over a thousand injured. Operation Protective Edge in 2014 caused the death of 2,310 people and 10,895 were injured, over 220 mortar and rockets were fired from air strikes and hit residential areas with 7,000 homes destroyed and 89,000 homes damaged. In an effort to try and demand their freedoms, 30,000 individuals participated in a peaceful protest ‘The Great Return March’ in March of this year; despite no provocation from the Palestinians, the Israeli soldiers killed 40 civilians and wounded over 12,000 through tear gas and live ammunition.
The Gaza economy is unable to recover as economic growth with this ongoing situation is almost impossible; Gaza’s GDP per capita is 6 fold lower than Israel’s; the unemployment rate is 43.9% (World Bank Report 2015) the highest in the world. The health of the population is worsening due to the conditions created by the burden of living under occupation and siege; in addition to a chronic state of stress caused by ongoing violence targeting the entire population, including children. The occupation has increased poverty levels which is currently at 37% and 26% are classified under extreme poverty earning below $2 a day, limited nutrition access where 65% of the population are food insecure, damaged mental health as 93% of children are affected and require intervention, increased the number of accidents (firearm missiles is the second highest cause of accidents killing children under the age of 14) and violence which in turn all affect Gaza’s morbidity rates (BMJ). In this environment, until the political situation changes and the blockade on Gaza is lifted, the work of humanitarian organisations supporting Palestinians in Gaza through healthcare and educational support is critical.
Cycling4Gaza began to help address the humanitarian crisis caused by these wars and the Israeli-imposed blockade, and to raise awareness of the dire circumstances caused by these military incursions in Gaza. 2018 marks Cycling4Gaza’s 10th year. We are implementing a Cycling4Change campaign focusing on driving human development in Gaza through supporting grass root initiatives that strengthen civil society and building resilience within vulnerable communities in Gaza in partnership with Medical Aid for Palestinians. We will do this by focusing on three key areas:
1. Women Empowerment
2. Community Rehabilitation targeting disabilities among children and adults
3. Mental Health Support
Each project is developed to provide the tools and systems needed to positively impact the community as a whole by driving human development; creating functional sustainable units in an area suffering from lack of resources, choice and basic human rights (UN Human Rights Declaration). The women’s empowerment project provides specialised counselling and training for women to re-enter their communities and launch effective businesses positively impacting economic growth combatting the high levels of unemployment. Community rehabilitation provides knowledge and education, allowing individuals to make better choices throughout their lives and promote social equality and justice throughout. Targeting disabilities will help provide the support, care and infrastructure for individuals with disabilities to enter into society and be productive and contributing members of the community. The mental health support project creates a system where individuals can understand more about the available services and rights; thereby also providing more choice and opportunities ideally improving their overall standard of living. With 93% of children and 31% of adults suffering from some form of trauma, it is imperative that the infrastructure and support systems are in place to provide the care needed for these individuals.
Our campaign on human development works towards providing women and children with new avenues of freedom to try and alleviate as much suffering as possible caused by the siege created by political regimes.
Every human is entitled to their freedoms; the freedom to live, of choice, of movement, of thought; and our actions can help shape them.
1. Women’s Empowerment:
Focusing on the most vulnerable and marginalised groups, including women with disabilities, this programme breaks barriers which prevent people within Gaza from having equitable access to psychosocial support and a comprehensive range of high quality, safe health care services. This project is a joint effort between MAP and the Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA; a women-led community based organisation).
Impact 1: Provide protection and support to survivors and those at risk of gender-based and domestic violence.
Impact 2: Empower survivors of gender-based violence through social initiatives.
Three strands aim to achieve this objective: 1. self-empowerment including psychological support and skills development; 2. social empowerment by outreach awareness and sensitisation of the community towards women survivors; and 3. economic empowerment through the support of income generation projects for women.
Impact 3: Increase accessibility to reproductive health services, especially for women and adolescents.
MAP’s partnership has permitted the implementation of a comprehensive health system for women in Gaza, including; awareness raising, antenatal and postnatal care, family planning, psychosocial support, legal counselling, physiotherapy, breast cancer and other social services. A new hormonal diagnostic machine has been installed allowing for hormonal tests to be conducted appropriately and efficiently.
2. Community Based Rehabilitation Project: Inclusive and Accessible Society for All
This programme is focussed on improving the quality of life of individuals living with disabilities in Gaza and to create a more inclusive and accessible environment as a whole in partnership with the Nusseirat Rehabilitation and Social Training Association (NRSTA).
3. Mental Health Support
MAP has partnered with Friends for Mental Health (FFMH) to work toward increased awareness regarding mental health issues and the rights, particularly for those suffering from mental health issues (and their families); harnessing key public service providers, the police and the judiciary.
Impact 1: Increase awareness of the service providers about topics relating to user’s rights.
Impact 2: Ensure comprehensive understanding of the availability of mental health services and user’s rights.
Impact 3: Increasing awareness within the local community about mental health issues and the rights of service users.