Stories From the Field: An Update on Gaza

This report from Joseph Hazboun, regional director for CNEWA-Pontifical Mission’s Jerusalem office, provides an update on the situation in Gaza, including information on Gaza’s Christian community and CNEWA-Pontifical Mission’s humanitarian response.

The flow of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, where relief supplies have decreased by 67 percent since 7 May, is insufficient to meet the soaring needs of 2.3 million people, most of them homeless.

Current Palestinian fatalities in Gaza are estimated to surpass 37,100, while some 84,700 Palestinians have been injured. Intense Israeli bombardment from air, land and sea continues to be reported across much of the Gaza Strip, including ground invasions and aerial bombardments reported in central Gaza and the al Mawasi area of Rafah. The Emergency Committee for North Gaza municipalities declared the cities of Jabaliya, Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun, and the Jabaliya Refugee Camp as “disaster zones.”

An estimated 1.7 million Gazans, 75 percent of the population, are internally displaced. According to UNICEF, 17,000 children are unaccompanied or separated from their parents.

Famine is a risk in northern Gaza and Rafah and, according to UNICEF, 9 out of 10 children in the Gaza Strip are experiencing severe food poverty, surviving on two or fewer food groups per day. In northern Gaza, about 12,000 tons of aid, primarily food, was delivered through the northern crossings since 1 May. It has provided some relief, but lack of access to clean water, nutritious foods, health care and sanitation continue to devastate the area. Only 14 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are functional and all of them face critical shortages, according to the World Health Organization. In Rafah, key health services, such as dialysis, medical imaging, surgery, internal medicine, and maternity and pediatric care, are no longer available, and many highly skilled doctors and nurses have been displaced from the city. Across Gaza, medical teams are facing enormous challenges in meeting needs and are watching patients die, due to the lack of tools, skills or supplies.

Gaza’s Christian Community

Almost all church institutions in Gaza have sustained moderate damage or have been destroyed. Reports have emerged that the Near East Council of Churches (N.E.C.C.) Mother and Child Clinic in Rafah managed to maintain operations until 6 May, when the Israeli military controlled the Rafah crossing point and ordered people to move to designated locations; the clinic later reopened when it was designated safe to do so.

Most staff of the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (D.S.P.R.) returned to central Gaza — some are sheltering in churches — and rented a minibus to serve as a mobile clinic and pharmacy for those homeless, displaced and living in tents.

A car was rented for the N.E.C.C. team of medical professionals, social workers, management staff and logistics staff to reach those who cannot access medical treatment. The mobile clinic treated 261 people on its first day. D.S.P.R. also turned its vocational training center in the Shija’ia neighborhood, east of Gaza City, into a makeshift medical clinic to serve the people sheltering in Shija’ia and surrounding areas, treating an average of 250 people per day. Also, in one room of the vocational training center, N.E.C.C. organizes psychosocial activities for groups of children.

About 800 Gaza Christians in Gaza are sheltering in two churches. The Greek Orthodox Church of St. Porphyrios and the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Family are hosting 91 and 170 families respectively.

Despite food scarcity and increased prices, Holy Family extends its support to the community beyond its walls by providing food and bottled water to those in need in the immediate area. The Caritas Medical Center, in cooperation with the parish of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, provides basic health care services and psychological support for children sheltering there.

Over the past eight months, both churches have been supporting the Christian community with spiritual guidance and humanitarian aid, as well as providing aid to those in the surrounding area when possible. It was reported that St. Porphyrios Church is channeling electricity generated from its diesel generator to the adjacent mosque, which has a water well, to pump enough water to serve both the church and the neighborhood.

As the war continues, more financial support is needed to help cover the costs of procuring and stocking canned goods and other foods due to limited food supplies and rising costs. St. Porphyrios Church needs canned beans, lentils, freekeh (a staple grain) and preserved cheese.

CNEWA-Pontifical Mission Gaza Emergency Efforts

Pontifical Mission, CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East, continues to coordinate with community members and nongovernmental partners, such as the N.E.C.C. Mother and Child clinics, as well as St. Porphyrius Church, to procure and deliver humanitarian aid to those in urgent need. Due to its considerable funding sources, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem does not require funding from CNEWA-Pontifical Mission, enabling the agency to earmark its funds to less-funded entities, such as the Greek Orthodox parish and the N.E.C.C.

CNEWA-Pontifical Mission continues to work on the ground to deliver humanitarian aid for its partners to distribute to those sheltering in the churches, as well as distributing directly to beneficiaries in need, specifically in Rafah and Gaza City. Since March 2024 until today, Pontifical Mission has provided food supplies, such as meat, vegetables, fruits and wheat flour. It has also coordinated the provision of medicine and medical supplies — especially for the elderly and children with illnesses and chronic diseases — cooking gas and 2,600 liters of diesel fuel over two months, which was used to pump well water for the displaced housed at and served by the Orthodox parish sheltering in and around the al Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza city.

Through local partners, essential humanitarian aid was delivered to Palestinian families in the northern and southern Gaza Strip. Pontifical Mission has delivered baby formula, vitamins and cereal for 150 infants, in addition to food packages for 170 displaced families in northern Gaza. In collaboration with AISHA, an independent organization concerned for the protection of women and children in Gaza, food packages were delivered to 270 families of women with cancer.

Many Christian youth, who had taken leadership roles in the community, have left the Gaza Strip. Pontifical Mission accompanied them through their university education with its scholarship program and helped build their skills through youth training and an employment program, in which they took leadership positions. Their departure has caused great sorrow.

Joseph Hazboun is the regional director for CNEWA-Pontifical Mission’s Jerusalem office.

Related Content:

Recent Posts

Get to know us and stay informed about the impact your support makes.

Nous constatons que votre préférence linguistique est le français.
Voudriez-vous être redirigé sur notre site de langue française?

Oui! Je veux y accéder.

Hemos notado que su idioma preferido es español. ¿Le gustaría ver la página de Asociación Católica para el Bienestar del Cercano Oriente en español?

Vee página en español