DSPR staff lead a health awareness workshop, responding to the needs of people in Gaza, providing medical and psychosocial support. (Photo: Courtesy of DSPR)

ATLANTA – Global Ministries awarded several grants through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) that are being mobilized this week to support organizations in Gaza on the ground, moving with and serving the displaced population.

A grant of more than $200,000 for United Palestinian Appeal (UPA), a nonprofit headquartered in Washington, D.C., is being used to provide 3,275 displaced households in Gaza with fresh vegetables to compliment dry food rations and increase food availability in camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and with host families. Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, potatoes, peppers, zucchini and lemons will be a great and welcome relief for families in the Rafah area.

UPA was founded in 1978 by a group of Palestinian-American business professionals to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people and contribute to the long-term socio-economic and cultural development of Palestinian communities in the West Bank, Gaza and the Palestinian diaspora. The organization has developed many connections with Palestinian medical facilities, vendors and social service agencies to procure the harvested produce from local farms, thereby aiding their income as well.

An earlier UMCOR grant to UPA in December 2023 to provide 14,000 displaced people with food parcels for those not being served by United Nations shelters, hospitals and schools, was successful in getting aid through Egypt.  

The Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) of the Middle East Council of Churches has also received an UMCOR grant of about $200,000 to support a humanitarian relief project as IDPs flee more bombardment, concentrated now in Rafah and South Gaza. Early in May, the closing of the Rafah crossing by Israeli authorities halted relief deliveries and even medical evacuations of critically injured patients.

In November 2023, soon after the Israeli response to the Hamas incursion and kidnappings unfolded, DSPR opened a clinic in Rafah to support the sick and injured entering that city.

“Our staff worked day and night under unsafe and very dangerous situations; most of them and their families were forcibly displaced from their homes in different locations like hundreds of thousands of others. Many fled for refuge to Rafah as the Israelis named it a ‘Safe Area,’” DSPR staff noted in a May 2024 update.

Since November, the DSPR team has continued its mission to serve people who are desperate for medical help and psychosocial support. But on May 6, the Israeli incursion into Rafah caused its temporary closing. “They keep chasing those tired families and targeting them by airstrikes and shelling in the new location they move to,” DSPR said. “We will resume the work in Rafah clinic when this threat has stopped.”

Even so, most of the DSPR staff moved to the central area of Gaza and started up a mobile clinic, an alternate plan they had already designed and were ready to activate.

The UMCOR grant will support the procurement and distribution of hygiene kits and cash transfers to IDP families for food, shelter, water, medicine or whatever family members need most. The Rafah clinic will also receive UMCOR support for its ongoing medical work, health awareness sessions with IDPs and psychosocial support, which is critical to maintain hope in a dire situation.

In January 2024, a $100,000 grant to the American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) reached nearly 3,000 people with winter blankets, coats and winter clothes. This was crucial support for families living in makeshift tents, as a woman displaced in Rafah with her young son explains.

ANERA staff member assists a woman looking for winter clothes and a coat for her son. (Photo: Courtesy of ANERA)

“I had no choices left, so I tried to seek refuge at my aunt’s house. Unfortunately, my aunt, already burdened with financial difficulties and many people living at her home, couldn’t accommodate us. The only option I had was to build a makeshift tent to shield my family from the outside conditions. I left my house when it was hot two months ago, we left wearing summer clothes. With what I make selling tea, I couldn’t afford to buy any new clothes. We finally were given the chance to buy (with the voucher) jackets and winter clothes to stay warm.”

Through eight months of conflict, the need in Gaza remains overwhelming. Available resources are scarce and the teams on the ground of these organizations are exhausted.

But they are also determined and unwavering in their love of neighbor.

“Remember the people of Gaza in your prayers,” notes Roland Fernandes, Global Ministries’ general secretary. “And remember those who serve alongside the people of Gaza, despite their exhaustion and the volatile conditions in which they serve. We, as United Methodists, have the honor and privilege of continuing to support their mission, extending God’s grace to those they encounter in their outreach.”

Christie R. House is a consultant writer and editor with Global Ministries and UMCOR.

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