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Letter from Gaza: “You cannot understand how it feels... There is no dignity”

Palestinian Ghada Al Kord tells of the difficulties of navigating a warzone while pregnant and the indignity of being trapped in Gaza. 

Gazans are suffering, says resident Ghada Al Kord. Photo: Alison Baskerville, CARE
Gazans are suffering, says resident Ghada Al Kord. Photo: Alison Baskerville, CARE

Ghada Al Kord, 28, has lived in Gaza since she was born and co-ordinates safety and security for CARE staff there. She lives with her husband and 18-month-old daughter and is expecting her second child.

I heard the first strike of the military operation on the day that I went to a clinic to check on my health for the pregnancy. Since then we have just watched it escalate and escalate. I thought it might be for one week, like “Pillar of Cloud” but the violence from both sides is not stopping.

I was pregnant during Pillar of Cloud and now I am pregnant in this war too. I’m suffering physically, it is difficult – we are fasting for Ramadan, there is the military operation and all these things are happening together, so it is a very big strain, especially for pregnant women. We cannot sleep for the air strikes.

On the first day there was an air strike outside our door. My husband and daughter had just been standing in that same place one minute before. Thank God they are not injured. The next day I went to my sister’s for the night. My niece answered the phone and it was a call from the IDF telling us to evacuate the house. In two minutes we were in the street with my nieces and nephews screaming and shouting. The whole neighbourhood got the same information, there was chaos, but we got back to my home.

That night there was an air strike very close to my sister’s home, the place where I would have been sleeping was badly damaged. We moved to my husband’s family home, but again there were air strikes targeting the houses and then the ground operation started and we moved back to our house. Whenever we move we are scared that we will be targeted, you can be on any street, any building. My sister’s family are now living in a basement because their building was so damaged, they can’t even go into their garden – imagine not leaving a basement for three weeks? If they go out they might be targeted.

My daughter does not understand, but she is scared. She comes close to me and hides in my arms when we hear the strikes. I try to tell her stories to calm her down so she will not remember. I worry for the life of my next child, our children are growing up surrounded by violence. There is no safe or calm environment for them, everything they learn is violence. They have the right to live in peace like other children, they should be able to play in the sea and in the park – I cannot even let my daughter out of the house.

We are living between wars. You cannot understand how it feels not being able to move, to be trapped, to not even see family or friends. There is no dignity. We are frustrated and we do not know when it will end.

We will not be able to celebrate Eid. How can we when we have lost relatives? My sister-in-law lost her brother, and two of our friends have been killed?  I lost my brother in Operation Cast Lead to a drone. He was just a civilian. He has four children and their life is so hard. They feel anger and hate and aggression. When I visit them in Rafah, I try to be strong in front of them, but inside I am very scared for them. There are air strikes in Rafah too.

The pregnancy clinic told me to come back after my last check-up, but I can’t go as it is now shut. There are many pregnant people like me and other sick people with diseases who need medicines but we cannot get any help because the hospitals and clinics are full of all the injured people. I have to be strong.

We just want to live in peace, not war. I am 28 and for more than 14 years I have witnessed war, 14 years of violence. We just want to live like other people. I’m 28 and I have never left Gaza, I would like to travel, I would like to meet people in other countries but we can’t – right now I cannot even see my own family and friends.

I ask the world to think of the civilians. We are good people. Everyone I know wants to live in peace. It is enough now. Our children deserve to grow up with their rights, and that is all we ask.

CARE and its partners are preparing to provide emergency mobile health teams to serve people affected by the violence in Gaza. As soon as the security situation allows, CARE and its partner, Palestine Medical Relief Society (PMRS), are planning to run two mobile health teams that would visit an average of 200 patients per day, providing basic health care to people living in communities affected by the ongoing violence, The teams will include medical staff and a psychosocial worker to help traumatised families, and will focus in particular on women’s health needs, particularly pre- and post-natal care for pregnant women and new mothers with infants.