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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 January 2008, 19:30 GMT
Gaza diary 1: Rana Elhindi
In the first instalment of her diary for the BBC News website, Rana Elhindi, a Save the Children worker in Gaza, describes the impact of Israel's blockade on daily life and the aid effort in the territory.

Rana Elhindi
Rana Elhindi says life in Gaza is always difficult
Right now our office has gone into emergency mode - we cannot get supplies into Gaza for our regular projects.

I've been receiving phone calls around the clock from Save the Children colleagues in Jerusalem and London.

We have had to reduce our office working hours because the fuel is not available to run the emergency generator. This all makes it very difficult for us to help the children who need it most.

If the promised 2.2 million litres of fuel is allowed in, it will mean that Gaza will only have enough fuel to keep hospital generators and some water pumps going for three days.

This won't be enough to sustain the needs of its population of 1.5 million people. It's like sticking a plaster on a wound while the wound keeps bleeding.

Stress and despair

It's another cold day in Gaza City, with frost coating the streets and the sun trying to break through the clouds.

I've been up since early this morning. In fact it's been difficult to get much sleep because it's so cold.

Palestinian children trying to cross from the Gaza Strip to Egypt
Palestinian women and children tried to cross the border into Egypt
At this time of the year the temperature in Gaza drops to as low as 4C and houses are not equipped for the winter when the heaters are not working due to a shortage of fuel.

Life is tough in Gaza at the best of time with 80% of the population dependent on some form of aid assistance.

There have been some requests for us to assist in water delivery so children can access clean and safe drinking water.

Today I met the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, an organisation supplying water to Gaza.

Like us they are watching to see what kind of real impact fuel supplies will have on the humanitarian situation on the ground.

Poverty is deepening here, as is stress and despair, especially among the most vulnerable, women and children.

Pressure cooker

Save the Children research shows that 40% of children suffer from insomnia in Gaza. Many children have known nothing but conflict and poverty their whole lives and the ongoing cycle of poverty and violence is having a devastating impact.

More than 50% of Gaza's population is under the age of 18 and the impact of violence and living in poverty and insecurity is damaging youngsters and their families.

The scars inflicted by living in a pressure-cooker environment are more than just psychological.

A Palestinian girl looks on as others fill up canisters with drinking water in southern Gaza Strip
Lack of access to clean water will lead to children falling sick
Rates of anaemia caused in part by a lack of food and adequate nutrition has increased since 2007 in Gaza, with 70% of infants aged nine months now suffering from the condition.

Diarrhoea is also on the increase partly due to the lack of clean water and the lack of hygiene.

When fuel is short, there is real concern that access to clean and safe water will lead to children in particular falling sick.

As I go to work I see people queuing for basics such as bread. Very often children are accompanying their parents as there is nothing else for them to do.

But most days the streets are empty because there is no fuel for cars.

Tomorrow I will visit the Zeitun neighbourhood in Gaza City to assess the impact that leaking sewage is having, and how Save the Children can work on alleviating the suffering.

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