Congressmen Visit CRS Project in Gaza

Gaza park

Congressman Bob Inglis (R-South Carolina) meets with Gazan youth at a park near Jabalia in Gaza. Photo by LeAnn Hager/CRS

On Tuesday April 7, U.S. Representatives Stephen Lynch (D-Mass) and Bob Inglis (R-South Carolina) visited a CRS project in Gaza as they assessed humanitarian needs following January’s conflict. The congressmen visited Al Sheikh Zayed park, located between Jabalia Camp and the Beit Lahia neighborhood. The park, which was created by the Palestinian Authority several years ago, was damaged during the bombing. If materials become available, CRS hopes to rehabilitate it and other community spaces.

Accompanied by CRS Deputy Country Representative LeAnn Hager, the congressmen met with CRS field manager Omar Shaban and with nine college-age Gazans at the park. Shaban described CRS’ emergency food distributions immediately following the conflict, as well as CRS’ plans for community cleanup and psychosocial support for those affected by the violence.

The young people, who will implement CRS’ cleanup and repair work, explained how they ask their communities about which areas should be rehabilitated; the park is one of them. The youth will work with rubble removal agencies to clear the large pieces of concrete in the middle of the park. They will then have the land leveled, plant grass and trees, and paint the park to make it more appealing for families. They will also replace damaged benches and play equipment, provided the material can enter Gaza.

The availability of reconstruction materials for homes and businesses has been a concern for aid agencies in Gaza. “What we hope for is free access and movement, not just of people, but also of much-needed rehabilitation supplies,” says Hager. During the congressmen’s visit, Hager also noted the cash flow problem in Gaza: people are not able to access their accounts in full, and that organizations like CRS are constricted by policies to pay youth for cash-for-work labor and other humanitarian activities.

Congressman Lynch shared his appreciation with the young people before visiting other damaged areas in Gaza. “We need to act with some urgency here,” he told reporters. “There is a humanitarian crisis going on and we can’t dawdle.”

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