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news | July 20, 2016 | oPT | Emergency

Reconstructing Gaza with protection in mind

Houssam and ACTED staff inspect the new windows installed by ACTED.

Houssam’s house in Al-Mughraqa neighbourhood was severely damaged by a stray shell during the 2014 conflict. ACTED has not only helped him to build it back, but has also ensured it is a safe environment for the entire family.

A slow reconstruction

When Houssam’s house was shelled, both bedrooms and the roof were destroyed and the family found themselves amongst the 500,000 Gazan civilians who were displaced during the 2014 conflict.

“We used to live here like animals, now my house is paradise and we regained our dignity” - Houssam

When the conflict ended at the end of August that year, they started reconstructing their home by themselves, but did not have sufficient money or material to do so. In the beginning of 2016, almost 18 months after the war ended, their house was still only partially habitable. “I had started to rebuild my home, but we had no windows and the roof was leaking and we were forced to live with relatives for several months every winter,” said Houssam.

Supporting affected families to build back by themselves

In order to support Houssam’s family and hundreds of others in a similar situation, ACTED and its local partner MA’AN launched a new project in February 2016 to fund the reconstruction of partially damaged homes. After carefully selecting the most vulnerable and badly affected households, ACTED has provided them with cash and the expertise of professional engineers so that they can repair their houses by themselves, according to their own preferences and specific needs. If the damage exceeds the beneficiaries’ capacity to rebuild themselves, like in Houssam’s case, ACTED carries out the repairs. Five months into the project and 1,308 men, women, boys and girls have already been supported.

Building back better for the entire family

Special attention has been paid to the protection and personal needs of all family members. In Houssam’s case, ACTED staff carefully listened to the opinion of his wife Muna. “There was no guardrail around the stairs outside and once my seven year old son fell from the third floor. Thankfully he only needed some stitches, but I was worried every day that much worse could happen,” she said. To address Muna’s concerns, ACTED installed a guardrail. The kids’ bedrooms have also been painted in bright colours. “After the shelling my children were afraid to be in their bedroom. Now they feel in a new place and they can sleep again,” Muna added.

75,000 individuals are still displaced or homeless, two years after the war.

 Source: OCHA, “Gaza: Internally Displaced Persons” report April 2016

In August, ACTED, again in partnership with the MA’AN, will be starting a second OCHA funded shelter project in Gaza, which will continue to support households still struggling to rebuild their homes after the 2014 war.