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Aid Workers on Road to Recovery In War-Torn Gaza

February 9, 2009

As talks to bring a lasting truce between Israel and Hamas progress, humanitarian efforts in war-torn Gaza are moving into a new phase as well. The West Coast-based relief agency Mercy Corps has been in the region working with other humanitarian groups to provide nearly 100,000 Gazans with such basics as food and medical supplies.

Director of communications Joy Portella says their work has now shifted to helping civilians recover from severe psychological and physical damage caused by the conflict, and that emotional recovery, particularly for children, is a priority.

"About 50 percent of Gaza's population is young, and many kids were holed up for about three weeks, just hearing and seeing violence all around them, so they're absolutely emotionally affected by this."

Mercy Corps is also helping in the rebuilding efforts. More than 22,000 buildings have been destroyed or damaged, creating a new wave of homelessness. The group is providing families with essentials like blankets, plastic sheeting, water purification tablets and water tanks. The work is funded by a grant from the British government.

Portella says that as with many natural and man-made disasters, once the immediate action is over, the story fades from the headlines.

"And I think people's attention therefore also fades, but folks who live in Gaza are stuck for a long time trying to rebuild their lives, and it's not at all a short-term thing."

Californians wanting to learn more about Mercy Corps' Gaza Crisis Fund can go to the organization's Web site,

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA