Honiton woman returns from mission in Gaza

A HONITON woman has described the aftermath of a three-week conflict in Gaza that left 1,380 people dead and 4,000 homes destroyed.

A HONITON woman has described the aftermath of a three-week conflict in Gaza that left 1,380 people dead and 4,000 homes destroyed.

Deborah Underdown, 26, spent two days in Gaza earlier this month to witness the aid work being undertaken by CARE International.

Deborah, who grew up in Gittisham, is the charity's press officer and travelled to Gaza with its chief executive, Geoffrey Dennis.

"I went to see the programmes that CARE International is running in Gaza, and to gauge how people there are coping after the conflict that lasted three weeks in December last year," she told the Herald.

"During that conflict, 1,380 people were killed and a further 5,000 were injured.

"A total of 58,000 homes were damaged. Of those, 4,000 were completely destroyed."

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Deborah was shocked by the devastation.

"Because of the siege on Gaza, building materials can't be brought in," she said.

"People are living in tents or buildings that are collapsing around them. They have no choice.

"I met a couple and their five children. They fled when the bombardment began. When they returned, they couldn't even figure out where their house had been - the area had been so badly damaged.

"They are now living in a makeshift tent on a site where they believe their home once stood."

CARE International is distributing fresh food to the people of Gaza.

Deborah says: "Eighty-eight per cent of Gaza's population are dependent on the international community for food and 60 per cent of them are children.

"It's hitting children the hardest."

A big part of CARE International's work in Gaza is helping farmers to grow their own crops again.

"A lot of the crops were destroyed," said Deborah. "The farmers don't have the money to re-plant, so we are giving them seeds.

"I met a lady called Halima, who lost all her crops and her donkey. Over there, losing your donkey is a big deal.

"Now, thanks to our seeds, she has got a field of water melons."

Reflecting on her trip, Deborah says the worst experience was crossing the border into Gaza.

"It was quite intimidating," she said.

"But, once inside Gaza, I felt safe. The people are so welcoming and generous. Some apologised for not being able to offer me anything. I wasn't expecting them to."

Deborah doesn't believe the situation in Gaza will improve significantly until a political solution to its isolation has been found.

"It's a really sad and frustrating situation," she said.

"There's more we could be doing but, until there are concerted political efforts, there is a limit to what we can do.

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