Orkney Woman Gaynor Jones Reflects on Shufat Refugee Camp

This Saturday 25th November at the King Street Halls, Kirkwall, the Orkney Friends of Palestine will be holding ‘Aspects of Palestine’ to which all are welcome. There will be a  shared supper 6.30 – 7.30pm followed by  an opportunity to share the experience of Palestinian culture.

Gaynor Jones, a member of Orkney Friends of Palestine, is working in the Shufat Refugee Camp. Read about it in her own words.

“It’s been a busy few weeks at the camp as is usual in the lives of the 65,000 Palestinian refugees who currently live here. The numbers are increasing but the services remain scarce.

Shufat Refugee Camp

By Tamarah (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I could talk at length about the teargas attacks, the soldiers in the camp and the daily intimidation at the large checkpoint securing the entrance to Shufat Camp; but I’m going to focus on some of the positive changes I’ve seen that have taken place over the last year.

Thankfully, Dr.Anati and his small team have moved out of the classroom in the boys’ school and have a new Health Centre provided by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). The Centre was funded by donors from Saudi Arabia. Staff now have space to work and a computerised heath administration system. It’s not without its challenges. Medication is limited and they frequently run out. The system often goes down and staff revert to paper notes. Only 12,000 refugees are recognised by UNRWA. The remaining residents in the camp are not eligible for any healthcare or education.

Another positive change is the coordination of the refuse collection. Last year rubbish was piled as high as the houses and blocked the narrow roads around the camp. This was frequently set on fire in an attempt stem the tide of rotting debris. Now, the camp leaders have teamed up with UNRWA and an Italian NGO to set up small cleaning groups in different sections across the camp’s 1km footprint. They have been given some new equipment ie. 2-3 small forklifts, to shift the rubbish to a central point for UNRWA to remove. I have seen people engaged in rubbish collection most days since I’ve been here. Last year I saw a UN bin lorry once in the whole month. The only blot on this good news story is that as I’m writing this, one of the bin men has hobbled into the clinic helped by a friend. Last week, he was shot by soldiers outside the clinic as he was collecting rubbish. The gunshot wound in his shin is down to his bone and it has started to become infected. He was clearly in a lot of pain. He was given ibuprofen for the pain and an antibiotic.

The other happy experience in the camp has been revisiting the work and people at the Disabled Children’s Centre. I was delighted to be able to handover a much needed donation of £3,500 from Orkney Friends of Palestine. The group have been campaigning alongside Orkney’s Amnesty International Group this past year to raise money for the Centre to buy specialist equipment for children with learning and physical disabilities. People here are so grateful for this help and they give thanks to the good people in Orkney who have contributed. I was also able to pass on a donation to a playgroup here from Holm Playgroup. They were very pleased and thankful. This will enable more children to attend. The playgroup runs when it has some funds and closes when it doesn’t.

In addition, I have caught up with friends and families who I have kept in touch with since my last visit. People’s hospitality and generosity of spirit is overwhelming.

Everywhere I go people want to feed me and welcome me into their homes. Their sense of community is strong within the camp and the commitment to their land is enduring.”

Aspects of Palestine



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