How you can help desperate families in Gaza

‘Food, water and vital medicines in disastrously low supply,’ implores Caritas Australia

Caritas Australia, through its partners on the ground, is providing emergency shelter, food and small medical services to desperate citizens in Gaza, as the war between the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel intensifies.

The efforts of these partner agencies are expected to support 17,000 displaced families, representing around 100,000 of the 1 million people displaced by the bombings in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli government has launched hundreds of military air strikes across the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a series of surprise attacks against Israel by Hamas on 7 October.

A blockade has cut off fuel, electricity and water supplies to the 2.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza and reduced aid to a small trickle. However, Caritas trucks loaded with vital supplies of medicine, food, water and shelter are waiting at the border, ready to move in as soon as pathways open.

A plume of smoke rises in the sky of Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on 9 October 9. (Photo: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images)

“Once humanitarian corridors open, food, water, shelter and medicines to support primary healthcare are the priority,” said Sally Thomas, Humanitarian Emergencies Lead for Caritas Australia, part of a network that has been working in the region for over 50 years.

“The requirement at present is the provision of quite basic but ultimately life-saving supplies to support the population there. Dehydration, starvation, disease, exposure to the elements and the inability to administer life-saving medical interventions, such as surgeries, are all very real threats to life for those on the ground.”

Remaining structure of a church after an air strike. (Photo: Caritas Jerusalem)

With the conflict still ongoing and many deceased trapped under rubble, Thomas said it was impossible to give accurate numbers of fatalities and casualties. However, she quoted UN statistics that 9933 Palestinians and 1516 Israelis have been killed in the conflict, along with 70 casualties recorded by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

A religious tapestry among the rubble following an air strike. (Photo: Caritas Jerusalem)

Estimates put the death toll of Palestinian children at about 3000 and rising. Women and children represent 68 per cent of the fatalities in Gaza since 7 October.

“Children make up about half the population in the region and they are particularly vulnerable to dehydration, starvation, disease and exposure to the elements,” Thomas said. “This is a major concern given that 42 per cent of homes have been destroyed or damaged and with food, water and vital medicines in disastrously low supply.”

With an estimated 20,000 pregnant women in Gaza, there are reports of Caesarean sections being performed on severely injured mothers; however, these surgeries will become impossible without painkillers, clean water and power for hospitals, with devastating consequences, says Thomas.

As clean water runs out, people are turning to unsafe supplies, creating the risk of disease running through large communities and a potential public health disaster.

“Without intervention, hunger, dehydration and disease could take an unimaginable toll on Gaza’s most vulnerable within days or even hours. The need is urgent, and humanitarian assistance must be prioritised,” she said.

“The church must especially act as the church in times of war, for that is when human suffering is at its greatest.”

Caritas Australia welcomed the Australian government’s commitment of an additional $15 million to support people hit by the conflict in Gaza. But it urged the government to continue pressuring for humanitarian access supported by a ceasefire.

“We also strongly support comments from [Foreign Affairs Minister] Penny Wong regarding the essential nature of humanitarian pauses, as to date nowhere near enough aid has entered Gaza,” Thomas said.

Aerial view of buildings destroyed by Israeli air strikes in the Jabalia camp for Palestinian refugees in Gaza City. (Photo: Yahya HASSOUNA / AFP via Getty Images)

Asked how Australian Christians can help, Thomas said that when a crisis of this magnitude happens, it may leave us with a sense of hopelessness, but every single act of kindness counts.

“Through Caritas Australia and our humanitarian response in Gaza, you can help families meet basic needs and cope with trauma by donating to our appeal. For those unable to contribute, we encourage you to pray for those impacted because, as the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem said, “the church must especially act as the church in times of war, for that is when human suffering is at its greatest.”

The aftermath of an explosion at The Church of Saint Porphyrius in Gaza City. (Photo: Caritas Jerusalem)

Caritas partners have provided cash support for over 7000 families and are providing support for four churches sheltering 1200 people. They are mourning 18 people, including a Caritas Jerusalem staff member and her family, who were killed during the bombing of The Church of Saint Porphyrius, the oldest active church in Gaza City.

“We echo the sentiments of Pope Francis, who said that ‘war always is a defeat, it is a destruction of human fraternity,’ and call strongly for humanitarian needs to take precedence over conflict,” Thomas said.

To support Caritas Australia’s Gaza Appeal, click here or call 1800 024 413 toll-free.