Assisting with Aid to Gazans, MECA Makes a Difference

Middle East Childrens Alliance MECA

With horrific and heartbreaking news coming out of Gaza daily, not enough has been reported on Gazans’ daily struggle to survive under Israel’s ongoing genocide. Prior to the war, 90 percent of Gazans relied on private sector and international humanitarian aid to meet their daily needs, making it one of the most aid dependent areas of the world. Since the 2007 blockade imposed by Israel and supported by Egypt in the aftermath of Hamas taking control of the strip, daily life has been one of increasing hardship.

Horrifically, in the first 100 days of the war more than one percent of the population has been killed while many entire families have been decimated. Survivors must deal with many hardships including the trauma of losing loved ones in Israel’s invasion along with the daily struggle to survive. Mixed into this morass are the ever-present Israeli drones flying overhead, observing, and searching for targets accompanied by daily bombings and missile attacks along with IDF soldiers killing innocent civilians, as they continue their relentless invasion.

As all public and private services and support have been degraded, survival is a daily struggle for residents during the onslaught in seeking food, medical assistance and shelter as supplies and resources have become depleted.

One organization that is well-placed and has been able to assist Gazans in meeting some of their basic needs under these most oppressive and inhumane conditions is the non-profit Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), a longtime humanitarian organization based in Berkeley, California. Founded in 1988 by activist Barbara Lubin, MECA is dedicated in working for the rights and the well-being of children in the Middle East along with offering aid to residents.

For the past 35 years MECA has assisted Palestinian communities in every aspect of their lives under occupation. During that time, they have engaged in helping children, families and communities in refugee camps in the West Bank along with the residents of Gaza with their nutritional, medical and psychological needs. They have also been instrumental in creating art and cultural programs and in establishing children’s centers and various other youth- focused programs. Since its inception, they have delivered $31 million in food and medical aid in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon.

The present need for all forms of aid and assistance has never been greater or more challenging with more than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million displaced and under continuous attack.

According to Executive Director Zeiad Abbas Shamrouch, MECA, having had so many years of experience on the ground along with seven dedicated staff members presently working there, is a positive attribute in their ability to offer immediate assistance for some of those in need. Shamrouch is no stranger to a life of displacement as he grew up and later worked in the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem and knows from personal experience the hardships, needs and challenges faced by residents.

While the problems in Gaza are overwhelming, MECA along with other NGOs and the U.N. have been able to make a much-needed difference in many people’s lives through food distribution and other assistance as supplies have allowed. Clearly, none of those able to help can meet the astronomical needs of the displaced population.

Unlike some groups that work through orders coming from the top down, MECA relies on its staff members and volunteers on the ground in Gaza to direct their efforts in carrying out the organization’s massive undertaking. MECA’s operating principal is one of “Solidarity and not Charity” in honoring the dignity of those in need who they serve and who deserve assistance.

As an example, Shamrouch said that the group has been purchasing supplies along with locally grown food when available so that their purchases in turn help the local economy. He explained that even now farmers are harvesting food grown in their fields at great personal risk to meet MECA’s and others’ needs, rather than letting it rot unharvested. But this, too, is a finite resource as new plantings will likely not take place as the war rages on.

Payment for the produce along with the other supplies are made either in cash or by check drawn on accounts for later payment when the war is over. Shamrouch told how one farmer when offered a check lamented that, if he was still alive later, he would cash it but that he was more concerned that people be served his produce as a show of solidarity than in his payment. Shamrouch related that one outcome of the war thus far has been in creating greater solidarity among Palestinians.

To date MECA has been able to deliver 4,000 hot meals a day from two kitchens it has established by working in concert with Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, and as of this writing they have also delivered 545,300 essential food parcels that include fresh produce and poultry where available to people in need. World Central Kitchen has also donated and distributed 48,202 “Ready to Eat” food kits.

Another important factor in MECA’s ability to provide people with food and other necessities is by drawing from supplies they had stockpiled in their two warehouses in Gaza. However, Shamrouch opined that it is most imperative that the present Israeli blockade of aid trucks be lifted to save the population from starvation. From reports on the ground, so acute is the need that people have resorted to grinding animal feed into flour to make bread for themselves and their children.

Presently only a handful of aid trucks each day are bringing supplies into Gaza as compared to the 500-600 that entered daily prior to the war. MECA has had a few truckloads of their supplies able to enter but delivery is inconsistent and sporadic at best. They also have a badly needed ICU unit that they have been waiting to be delivered with no time estimate of when that might happen.

Slowing the process of aid entering Gaza is that each truck load is subject to an extensive manual inspection by Israelis that includes the removal and confiscation of a long list of items deemed to be “dual use.” Some of the items prohibited from entry on the exhaustive list included water purifiers and parts, medical supplies, food, solar powered items, generators, tent poles, oxygen cylinders, food, toilet paper, playing cards, toys and cheese among many others.

Horrifically, the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that there is one shower for every 4,500 people and one toilet for every 220 people. With health and sanitation being of paramount importance, MECA has been able to deliver over 215,500 personal hygiene kits that includes basic supplies. In addressing the need for shelter, they have also been able to supply blankets and plastic sheets from a dwindling local supply as winter weather moves in.

MECA has also been able to deliver more than half a million gallons of clean drinking water to families sheltering in U.N. schools where they have installed water purification units, yet overall displaced children have access to only two liters of water a day. That small amount of water falls far below the U.N. World Health Organization’s (WHO) minimum estimate of between 50 and 100 liters of water per person per day required to meet one’s most basic health and sanitation needs.

Naturally, funding is important and Shamrouch explained that since Israel’s invasion they have seen an increase in contributions that are making a massive difference in their being able to meet the overwhelming needs that they are trying to address during the war. He went on to say that all their success is due to those staff members and volunteers working on the ground who at great personal peril have worked tirelessly to help Gazans survive the war.

To donate directly to MECA for their programs in Gaza, go to:

They have also asked that beyond donating, take action to stop the genocide in Gaza:

Report by Phil Pasquini

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