Oxfam staff in Gaza flee their homes

Emergencies, In the field article written on the 01 Aug 2014

Photo: Iyad al Baba/Oxfam

The crisis in Gaza has affected everyone living there — including our own Oxfam colleagues — who are working in incredibly difficult and dangerous circumstances to deliver safe water and food to thousands of families in need. Many of our staff and partners have themselves been forced to flee their homes with their families. They fear for their family’s safety and their children’s future.

They share their experiences with us now.

“I can’t believe I’m still alive”– Itaf, Oxfam Finance Assistant.

I’ve lived through two days that I could never have imagined. When the bombing intensified, I fled the house with my husband and two year old son. Hundreds of people were running in the street… we found ourselves trapped between two tanks, which started shooting at us. My brother was injured so we had to turn back to our home.

I saw a scene I will never forget… a little girl under the rubble of her house, still alive and calling for her mother and father. I couldn’t stop to help her. Imagine if my son was in her place. I heard later that she was rescued and is now at the hospital.

That night was the most terrifying and time passed extremely slowly. The bombing didn’t stop, and people didn’t know whether to flee their homes or stay. Death was waiting for us inside and outside. I saw injured and dead bodies in the street from my window.

There was a huge explosion next to the house, smashing all the windows and cutting my arm. We ran into the street without thinking. I ran for about three kilometres — shoeless — in streets covered with glass and stones.

I found a piece of white cloth that I waved as a white flag, and ran after my husband, who was carrying my son. We passed just metres away from the Israeli tanks.

We finally arrived at my aunt’s house and almost broke down. My husband held my son in his arm and cried. We saw death in every step and I can’t believe I’m still alive.

“This has been the most difficult work I have ever done” — Waseem, Oxfam Food Security and Livelihoods Officer.

I had to flee my house in Shujaiya in eastern Gaza two days before the terrible killing and massive destruction that happened there. I received three phone calls from the Israeli military warning me to leave the area but there was no safe place to go to in Gaza. I took my wife, children, brother and mother to a relative’s house.

I’ve been working with our local partners to distribute food vouchers. Our partners have been exerting tremendous effort to deliver aid despite the dangers. This has been the most difficult work I have ever done. Imagine you are travelling in completely empty streets with only the sounds of explosions everywhere. I saw a tank shell falling on a house and completely burning it.

My thoughts were shared between my family that I left behind and the people waiting for me to help them get food. We are talking about food, the most basic need for people to survive in dignity.

“I couldn’t see my family” — Niveen, Oxfam Office Assistant.

The house was shaking and my kids were screaming every time they heard the explosions. We fled to one of the UN schools. That night, huge airstrikes struck next to the school. The children became even more scared because they realized that no place was safe.

The bombing becomes more terrifying at night. After one of the bombings next to the school, my daughter could not move any more. I feared she was paralysed.

I couldn’t see my family and I don’t know how they are doing. I know they had to flee the shelling nearby and their house was completely destroyed. I really miss seeing them. What we are experiencing nowadays is the worst.

Enough is enough.