Gaza YMCA and West Bank YMCA help people in the middle of a devastating conflict
Martiina Woodson | Daniela Miller
Gaza YMCA tries to hold on through air strikes
Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel on Saturday started a new round of aggressive conflict and retaliation between Israel and Palestine. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is unspeakably difficult. While international aid actors are well prepared to help those in need in the region, it will take time to respond to the scale of an unforeseen crisis.
The staff and volunteers of YMCA Gaza are doing their utmost to help civilians and keep themselves safe. However, the constant air strikes have created almost insurmountable challenges for the distribution of humanitarian aid and the YMCA has not yet been able to launch a systematic relief operation.
The YMCA in Gaza has experience and capacity to provide emergency assistance through previous escalations. In previous crises in the region, the YMCA has been involved, for example, in the distribution of humanitarian aid packages and the clearing of demolished buildings.
A huge humanitarian crisis underway
80% of Gaza’s population lives below the poverty line and is dependent on humanitarian aid due to the economic and social isolation imposed in 2007. The worst concern is the lack of access for the civilian population to flee the closed crossing points both into Israel and on the Egyptian side. The humanitarian crisis is feared to worsen as water, food, medicine, electricity, and fuel supplies are cut off.
The number of civilian casualties has continued to rise. The most serious humanitarian crisis in the region for 50 years is emerging.
The West Bank YMCA has launched a humanitarian effort
The East Jerusalem YMCA is one of our Development Programme partners and a well-known civil society actor that has been active in the West Bank for 75 years. In addition to East Jerusalem and the main cities, the YMCA also works in geographically inaccessible areas.
The East Jerusalem YMCA is highly operational, but the sudden start of the war came as a complete surprise to them, too. During the week, YMCA staff formed an emergency response team and an updated plan on how to respond to the humanitarian crisis while adapting the programme for young people. The YMCA in the West Bank has an excellent capacity to assist on the ground in the event of a potential escalation of the crisis, as well as an extensive network of staff and volunteers.
In the West Bank, the climate is explosive and the East Jerusalem YMCA staff have also identified potential risk situations of violence for staff, volunteers and the young people they support in their situation assessment. Wahbeh Asfour, head of the Rehabilitation Programme in East Jerusalem, says violence can spiral out of control quickly:
–The confrontation has escalated and is happening at all checkpoints, he sums up seriously.
The Psychosocial Support Programme supported by YMCA Finland is valuable work with young people
To move on after a crisis, young people need holistic and far-reaching support. We support our partner East Jerusalem YMCA’s Rehabilitation Programme, which rehabilitates young people away from extremist attitudes and behaviours and towards the constructive development of their own lives. The programme is a vision-alleviating work with young people. In addition to psychosocial support, young people are encouraged to pursue education and employment and are encouraged to take peaceful community initiatives.
In fragile and difficult situations, the YMCA works and strives to contribute to peace at the grassroots level and among individuals, strengthening young people’s belief in the possibility of lasting peace.
–The only way to address the terrible spiral of violence in the Middle East is to address the root cause of the violence, recalls Carlos Sanvee, Secretary General of the World YMCA in a statement issued by the World YMCA, and continues –We all dream of a just peace in the region.
Daniela Miller, Programme Planner, YMCA Finland, email@example.com +358 400 688 650
Our Youth, Peace and Livelihoods Development Cooperation Programme aims to improve local living conditions and promote livelihood opportunities and peace-building skills for young people. The programme will be implemented with YMCA partners in Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kenya, Lebanon and Palestine 2022–2025, with funding from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.