Sorry but this is seriousOctober 11th, 2011
I have enjoyed the back and forth with Mumsnet members over my last few blogs, but the issues we have discussed have been put into stark perspective this week during a visit to the Middle East – meeting some of the young Egyptian revolutionaries from Tahrir Square as well as politicians and commentators, and visiting Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. So this blog is about the human side of one of the world’s most intractable problems.
The centrepiece of the visit was an invitation from Save the Children to see their work in Gaza – the small strip crowded between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. I had been intimately engaged with the drive to bring an end to the Gaza war in early 2008. This was a chance to see life as it is lived by children (and their mothers, some of whom I met) in one of the toughest places in the world, and to see the difference that a UK charity can make (the UK is also a major funder of UN aid in Gaza).
The positive news concerns the remarkable work done by Save the Children. Their local staff, some based in Gaza and some in the Jerusalem and the West Bank, do extraordinary work to relieve suffering and help children. We met a mother of six who had a week before given birth to triplets at a nutrition centre in Gaza City. He complexion was pallid, her face drawn, her eyes pretty weak looking. Her three babies were all asleep – clearly very small, but well wrapped up. Thank goodness she and they have got some help.
I also saw a state of the art children’s centre, run by the Qattan Foundation, and supported by Save the Children. In a rubble strewn, battle scarred, economically ruined place this centre is an oasis of light, knowledge and hope. It was very hard for me to believe I was still in Gaza – so imagine what it is like for the kids to have books, computers, quiet corners, staging rooms as a refuge. No wonder 23 000 kids are registered at the library.
I have written further about my visit in The Guardian here. The people there were too browbeaten to cry for help. Imagine if we could make a difference for them.