In Gaza, every child over the age of six has suffered through at least three wars. Having seen unspeakable horrors in their young lives, they’re forced to grow up too quickly.

10 year-old Hiba and her siblings are no strangers to the terrifying violence, massive destruction and pain of fleeing home that comes when fighting begins. They’ve experienced this before.

“An entire generation of children in Gaza is growing up like Hiba and her brothers — knowing little but airstrikes and destruction,” Hiba’s father Anwar says.

Thankfully, we are able to ease one worry for Hiba and her family: where to find clean water.

Fleeing for Safety

The family — Hiba, her parents and four brothers — fled their home in eastern Khan Younis during the height of the conflict in July.

“We escaped at the crack of dawn after the bombing reached its peak, and we miraculously survived,” remembers Anwar. “The sound of explosions and shelling left my five children shaking in fear. I was so worried that any of them would die just from fear.”

Unable to go far under the shelling, the family stayed with nearby relatives before moving again to one of the U.N. school shelters, where they currently live, waiting to see if this is a lasting peace before returning home to rebuild.

They, like many others in Gaza, still struggle to get basic necessities like safe and clean drinking water. During the seven weeks of intense fighting, massive damage to infrastructure crippled Gaza’s water supply. The only power plant was destroyed, knocking out the electricity that keeps water pumps working.

Delivering Water Where it’s Most Needed

To help Hiba and other vulnerable families in Gaza, Mercy Corps established 10 temporary water distribution points for communities in many of the areas hit hardest by the conflict.

Families can come to the water points — which are strategically located near shelters for safe, easy access — and take as much clean water as they need for drinking, cooking and bathing.

In eastern Khan Younis, little is left but destruction. Many people have lost their homes and their livelihoods, but above all, they have lost the ability to protect themselves and their children. “Is there any worse feeling than being unable to protect your children?” Hiba’s father Anwar asks.

He notes that without the temporary water point, they would have had a long, potentially dangerous journey ahead of them: “The next closest source of water is 10 kilometers, far away from here.”

Thanks to USAID and funding partners like Coca-Cola, we are able to provide families like Hiba’s with the most essential resource to help them survive — safe and clean water.

Surviving Today, Recovering the Future

Mercy Corps is also working in Gaza to meet the basic needs of families sheltering in crowded shelters with few supplies. We’ve reached an estimated 210,000 civilians with emergency food packages and hygiene kits.

Our support for families in Gaza also goes beyond the food and water they need to survive. Like other children in Gaza who have lived through major conflicts, Hiba has witnessed terrifying violence.

To help young survivors like Hiba who have experienced significant psychological trauma, Mercy Corps is running activity and support sessions for thousands of children and their parents.

These sessions are designed to help children cope with their experiences and provide caregivers with advice on how to support them and recognize when severe signs of stress are present.

For Hiba and her family and so many others like them, we will continue to make sure they have the basic necessities like clean water to make it through each day while focusing on how to help them recover and rebuild a safer future.




Stuart Willcuts is director of humanitarian response in Gaza for Mercy Corps.