Yaffa is a 33-year-old displaced Palestine refugee in Gaza. During recent airstrikes that left harrowing human costs in its wake, Yaffa found shelter at the UNRWA Abu Hussein School.
Displaced by airstrikes, Palestine refugees are left to seek shelter at UNRWA schools, such as UNRWA Jabalia Preparatory Girls “A” School, locally known as Abu Hussein School, one of around 50 shelters of its kind in the Gaza Strip.
These UNRWA schools are designated as shelters to be used during times of conflict. During the recent conflict, over 66,000 Palestine refugees were displaced at UNRWA schools. Other tens of thousands did not have anywhere to go. Some stayed at homes of their relatives.
“My family and I spent the first day of Eid al Fitr (a day of celebration marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan) in a shelter,” Yaffa said. “My house and the rest of the homes in the neighbourhood were crushed by the indiscriminate and intense bombings.”
She recalled: “My four children and I ran for more than one kilometre to reach a shelter, away from the brutal bombings. I am nine months pregnant! I was so terrified that night; it was like a horror movie. I did not think that I would survive the night.”
Fifty-eight Agency schools-turned shelters provided emergency refuge to more than 66,000 Gazans during Israel’s eleven-day offensive on the besieged Strip.
“In our rush to escape the airstrikes, I lost my eight-year-old Maya,” Yaffa painfully recounts. “We spent the rest of the night looking for her! We found her in the Al-Tawam area of north Gaza. She had been picked up by an ambulance transporting two dead bodies.
“When I found her, she was in shock and was unable to speak. I later found out that seeing the bodies of the deceased up close had terrified her. Maya told me that blood was everywhere.”
Yaffa continued: “UNRWA provide us with shelter, protection services and food. They even brought clothes for the children because we were unable to gather anything before we fled our homes.
“When the Israeli offensive was over and a ceasefire declared, we went back to our home. It was completely levelled to the ground. Then, my children started crying.”
Describing the feelings of her traumatised daughter, Yaffa said: “Maya said that all her toys were dead like the bodies in the ambulance. My children were asking me all the time to go back to the school, fearing that the bombing would happen again.”
Concluding her story, Yaffa said: “I have started to get contractions and expect to go into labour in a few days. I do not know how I’ll be able to prepare myself or the baby for our reality.
“I hope we will be able to return to a safe and stable home soon. We do not want to be displaced anymore.”