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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008, 18:26 GMT
Gaza diary 2: Rana Elhindi
Rana Elhindi, a Save the Children worker in Gaza, continues her diary of the current crisis for the BBC News website.

Rana Elhindi
Rana Elhindi says life in Gaza is always difficult
Gaza feels very empty and the silence on the streets is unnerving.

I hear from colleagues and friends that thousands of people have been making their way south to Rafah from early this morning to cross into Egypt and buy essential food supplies and medical drugs which are running low or impossible to find in Gaza.

People have been paying drivers with cars about 10-20 shekels (2.50, $5) to make the journey across the border.

More enterprising people have been driving large trucks through the crossing at Rafah and el-Arish in Egypt, stocking up with goods to sell in Gaza's half-empty markets.

There is a shortage of food, medicines and candles - essential after 1630 when the sun sets and most of Gaza is plunged into total darkness.

That's the thing about people here, despite all the challenges we face, we always find a way to get by. Call it survival instinct.

Police on horseback

There are hardly any cars on the roads because of fuel shortages and the service taxis that are available are all heading in one direction, towards Rafah.

Some colleagues have been finding it difficult to get into work in the mornings and, with the announcement a few hours ago that no more fuel would be delivered to Gaza, it looks like the journey in and out of work is likely to get worse.

Zeitoun area following sewage flood (Rana Elhindi/ Save the Children)
Zeitoun has been partially cleared up, but how long will it stay clean?
On my way to work I saw a group of policemen patrolling the streets on bicycles and horses because there isn't enough petrol to keep the police cars running.

I went to carry out an assessment in the Zeitoun neighbourhood. We had been informed that the community was at risk of a public health outbreak because of sewage flooding.

When I arrived I was pleased to see that some of the sewage had been cleaned up and the place was looking a lot better than I had expected, but things are still far from perfect.

A water pump in the area is working again because of a delivery of fuel, which means that some of the waste has been cleaned up. If the fuel runs out or is rationed, people will be back to square one and the sewage will start flooding the area again.

Valuable electricity

Save the Children is working with local organisations on the ground to see how we can bring water and fuel into these vulnerable neighbourhoods by tanker.

We face huge challenges because, for now, supplies coming into Gaza are limited to industrial fuel for the main power station along with some medicines.

I found it hard to concentrate on my conversation with the doctor because of the awful stench of sewage inside the hospital
There is a backlog of lorries and trucks between the main crossing that separates Gaza from Israel and the outside world.

From 2000 on Tuesday we had about 12 hours of electricity. Many families like mine stayed up all night to do their washing and other household chores that had been on hold.

I decided to get as much sleep as I could. It's been an exhausting and stressful few days as there is a lot to do and it's been difficult to sleep when it's so cold.

I feel sorry for my 16-year-old sister. Like many youngsters in Gaza, she finds that she has nothing to do all day long, with no TV or internet. She is left to watch the clock as the hours pass by.

I've been trying to buy toys from the local market for us to distribute in the refugee camps. It's important for children to have something to do to help take their minds off what is happening around them.

Nasser children's hospital
Nasser hospital has electricity for a few more hours
I was in the Nasser Children's Hospital in Gaza City to carry out an assessment of the needs of children.

The hospital has an erratic supply of electricity and has two generators, one for the intensive care and nursing unit and one for the general hospital.

One of the doctors at the hospital told me there was only enough fuel to keep one of the generators running for another 24 hours.

A five-year-old boy suffering from meningitis had to be moved from the main hospital to the intensive care unit where the generator is working for now so when the electricity cuts he can still be treated.

The doctor of the hospital told me that there was a shortage of cancer drugs - I found it hard to concentrate on our conversation because of the awful stench of sewage inside the hospital.



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