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Despondent Gazans Return to Destroyed Homes

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A Palestinian girl walks next to destroyed houses, in the Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City, Monday, March 30, 2015. Despondent over the slow pace of post-war reconstruction, displaced Gazans have begun to return to their damaged homes, patching up the structures with blankets and plastic sheets and living in the unstable and unsafe structures while they wait for promised aid to arrive. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

A Palestinian girl walks next to destroyed houses, in the Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City, Monday, March 30, 2015. Despondent over the slow pace of post-war reconstruction, displaced Gazans have begun to return to their damaged homes, patching up the structures with blankets and plastic sheets and living in the unstable and unsafe structures while they wait for promised aid to arrive. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

FARES AKRAM, Associated Press

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Despondent over the slow pace of post-war reconstruction, displaced Gazans have begun to return to their damaged homes, patching up the structures with cinder blocks and plastic sheets and living in the unstable and unsafe buildings while they wait for promised aid to arrive.

The returns reflect a failure by local authorities and the international community to rebuild Gaza after a devastating war between Israel and Hamas militants last summer. Officials say most of the more than $5 billion of international aid that was pledged never materialized, and returning residents say that small subsidies they received — and their patience — have run out.

“We have lost hope. There is no hope and nobody is interesting in helping us,” said Mohammed Afana, a 27-year-old resident of Shaaf, a neighborhood in eastern Gaza City.

An estimated 18,000 homes throughout Gaza were destroyed during the 50-day war, displacing 110,000 people, according to the United Nations. Less than 10,000 people are still living in U.N. schools that have been turned into shelters.

Shaaf, located close to the Israeli border, was among the hardest hit districts. Israeli ground forces took up positions on the eastern edges of the neighborhood, and Hamas said that its fighters engaged Israeli forces in the area.

An alley off the main street leads to a neighborhood of battered homes. In the middle of the neighborhood lie the remains of the four-story building where Afana and his extended family once lived.

After the war, the United Nations gave families small subsidies to rent apartments elsewhere in Gaza while their homes could be repaired. Afana received $1,300 — enough cash to support his family for three months. He then moved into a crowded home with his wife’s family.

Weeks ago, he decided to return to the damaged first floor of his original home with his wife, two children, parents and a sister. The top two floors of the building are destroyed, and chunks of concrete and twisted metal bars dangle down. Most of the exterior walls on the ground and first floors are destroyed.

Although the house is unsuitable for living, the Afanas rebuilt some exterior walls with secondhand cinderblock. The rest are covered with huge blankets or plastic sheets.

“We can’t find something better. I wish we can find an apartment with a rental subsidy. We would move immediately if we found one,” Afana said, standing in front of a makeshift wall make from different-colored bricks.

Inside the home, the kitchen has been turned into a bedroom, since it still has a wall. Openings in the remaining walls are covered by wooden boards. There are no windows and the floor tile is pocked and uneven.

“Every day, every week, the wind rips off the sheets. That’s how we live,” he said. “Death is more honorable than this life.”

One of five brothers from a family of builders and construction workers, Afana said he could rebuild the home in two weeks if cement and money were available.

In all, hundreds of neighborhood residents, including his brother’s family living upstairs, have returned to their bombed-out homes.

Such scenes are a far cry from what was envisioned when world donors pledged $5.4 billion to rebuild Gaza in October, just weeks after the fighting had ended.

Frode Mauring, the U.N. Development Programme’s special representative, said he believes only 5 to 10 percent of the pledges have been delivered.

“This is a huge concern,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s a shame that not everybody has been helped.”

There are many sources of blame. Donors have not followed through on pledges. Israel has been slow in allowing construction materials into Gaza, though in recent months, it has worked with the U.N. to set up a mechanism to allow larger quantities to enter.

But more than anything, an ongoing battle between Hamas and the rival Palestinian Authority appears to have paralyzed reconstruction efforts.

Hamas seized Gaza from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ forces in 2007, and despite a reconciliation deal last year, Hamas remains firmly in control. Abbas’ Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank, has demanded a foothold in Gaza, saying only it can ensure reconstruction proceeds properly.

Since December, only 150,000 tons of rubble was cleared from east Gaza City — less than 10 percent of an estimated 2 million tons that need to be removed, according to Mauring.

Mauring said the U.N. had hoped to provide rental subsidies for two years. “The fact that from time to time there has not been enough money is very regrettable,” he said.

Israel launched the military operation last July in response to heavy rocket fire from Gaza by Palestinian militants.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, were killed in the fighting, while 72 people died on the Israeli side. Israel has blamed Hamas for the heavy civilian death toll and damage to residential areas, pointing to the group’s use of crowded neighborhoods for cover while firing rockets.

About a dozen families received some relief in temporary trailer caravans donated by Jordan and Oman. In Shaaf, some trailers have now been placed inside of gutted homes.

The wealthy Gulf state of Qatar is also giving people a glimmer of hope. Qatar, the largest single contributor at Gaza’s rebuilding conference with $1 billion pledged, reached an agreement with Israel to deliver construction materials for Qatari-funded projects.

Israel recently began allowing 1,000 tons of cement into Gaza each day for the Qatari projects. Qatar said it will rebuild 1,000 housing units and announced that three families were given $10,000 stipends to kick off the reconstruction.

The three beneficiaries were brothers from the Abu Jamea family, which lost 24 members in an Israeli airstrike that destroyed their apartment building in July.

Since then, Bassam Abu Jamea, whose pregnant wife and three children were among the dead, has been living in a rental home not far from the rubble.

On a recent morning, Abu Jamea woke up to the sound of officials visiting the site. Among them was a Qatari official who told him he had been selected for the project.

“It goes without saying. Our lives have begun to be happy again, because we will have a new home again,” he said.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bay Area

Sept. 11, 2001, 20 years later: ‘Remembrance’ held aboard the USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

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U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment: Sgt. Tristan Garivay, Sgt. Michael Her, Cpl. Adrian Chavez and Cpl. Quentavious Leeks. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, Commanding Officer, 23rd Marine Regiment. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

The ceremony recognized the impact and consequences of the series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed on 2001 by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Queda against targets in New York City and Wash., D.C. Nearly 3,000 people died that day and 6,000 were injured.  This was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in U.S. history. 

The ceremony aboard the USS Hornet began with the presentation of the colors by the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment. (Pictured above.)

Leon Watkins, co-founder of The Walking Ghosts of Black History, was the Master of Ceremonies. He spoke about the extensive death and destruction which triggered the enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism.

Daniel Costin, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, spoke of the lasting impact of 9/11 terrorists attack on first responders. He recounted incidents where first responders rushed into the scenes of the attacks, many at the sacrifice of their own lives. More than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed that day: 343 members of the New York City Fire Department and 71 members of their law enforcement agencies.

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, commanding officer of the 23rd Marine Regiment, spoke about the recovery efforts at the Pentagon following the terrorists’ attack where 125 people perished. He reflected on the actions of three first responders who recovered the U.S. Marine Corps flag from the commandant of the Marine Corps’ office at the Pentagon. This flag was still standing after the attack. It was a symbol of America’s resolve.

At the end of the formal presentations, the Marine Corps Wreath Bearers went to the fantail of the Hornet. After the playing of ‘Taps,’ they tossed a wreath into the San Francisco Bay to give final honors.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Community

Many in Black Communities are Choosing Vaccination 

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists. 

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Vaccination/Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

The trail of illness and death left amid the spread of COVID-19 in Black and African American communities should come as no surprise.

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists.

COVID-19 vaccinations offer us an opportunity to better balance the scale.

Unfortunately, even with widely available testing, highly effective vaccines, and extraordinary efforts by health departments to educate and encourage people of color to get vaccinated, many Black Californians remain skeptical.

We can only hope that the FDA’s full regulatory approval of the Pfizer vaccine on August 23 for those 16 and up convinces more to get the vaccine.  It’s worth noting that emergency-use authorization also remains in place for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots, as well as Pfizer’s for 12- to 15-year-olds – and that all of these vaccines are safe and effective in protecting against COVID-19 and its highly contagious variants.

Eddie Fairchild and Steph Sanders were skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine but came to understand why vaccination benefits our entire community.

Fairchild, a Sacramento insurance agent, said he knew of research that found Black and white people are often treated differently for the same health conditions leading to poorer health outcomes.

“I was hesitant,” he said. “I was going to wait and see how it panned out with everyone else.

But when a Black friend in the health care field told him he’d opted to get vaccinated, Fairchild asked him why.

“He said, ‘Risk-reward, and the risk is death.’ At that point I didn’t have to ask him what the reward was.”

With a finance degree and a belief that numbers don’t lie, Fairchild looked at the data. He learned that until 2020 the average number of Americans who died each year was about 2.6 million, but in 2020 that figure was 3.4 million. There was only one possible explanation for the death rate surge, he said.

“COVID is absolutely real,” he said, adding that three of his cousins died from the virus. “Taking all that into consideration, I decided that it’s risky to engage in the world and not be vaccinated. It made sense for me to get it.”

Racial gaps in vaccination have thankfully narrowed in recent weeks. But as of September 1, while Black people account for 6% of the state’s population, they account for 6.6% of COVID-19 deaths, which is 11% higher than the statewide rate, according to state department of public health data. Only about 55% of Black people in California have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

Reasons for the discrepancies run the gamut, from conspiracy theories like Black people are getting a less effective vaccine than whites or that the vaccine will eventually be deadly, to challenges in health care access. 

Mostly, it’s based on a lack of trust in medical and scientific institutions, which have a long history of racism and mistreating Black people.

So even when it comes to good things like vaccines, which are scientifically proven to be good for the community, it always comes back to trust.

Sanders, a Vallejo school principal, was hesitant because of the Tuskegee syphilis studies in which Black men who had the disease were intentionally not treated with penicillin. And he was dubious that an effective vaccine could be developed so quickly. 

In fact, the science and technology enabling development of the COVID-19 vaccines was in development for a more than decade before the virus emerged in 2020. The FDA authorized three vaccines for emergency use after they underwent a rigorous process and were proven through trials to be safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19, hospitalization, and death.

He decided to get vaccinated when his school board decided last spring to bring students back into classrooms.

Today, he’s a fervent vaccine advocate. He holds “lunch and learn” forums for educators, encouraging vaccination.

“I’m a leader and people are relying on my knowledge,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t make this about you, but about the people you love and care about. It’s about protecting them.’”

There is still a long way to go before Blacks achieve true health equity, but vaccination against a virus that is taking a terrible toll on our communities is a critical step in the right direction.

 

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Community

Humanitarian Organization in Vallejo Supports Developing Countries with Access to Water and Education

Founded in 2007, Water and Education International (WEI), devotes its time and resources to providing water and education to villages in developing countries like Haiti.

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Water and Education International Logo, Photo courtesy of Organization’s website.

Founded in 2007, Water and Education International (WEI), devotes its time and resources to providing water and education to villages in developing countries like Haiti. 

Based out of Vallejo, this global humanitarian organization rallies together volunteers to provide food, medical aid, and spiritual knowledge to communities in need. These projects include water well and shower installment, wall repair, and education expansion, development and improvement for schools in communities of Haiti. 

For the past 12 years WEI has made 20 volunteer trips to communities in Haiti, completed two projects that include construction of a water cistern and a toilet, and provided over 425 scholarships for these communities.

To support their mission of combating poverty by providing education and water to underdeveloped communities, WEI partners with indigenous organizations and asks for the help of people like you and businesses alike.

Moreover, they have begun numerous projects that benefit the overall health and education of themselves as well. WEI was founded by Ricky Nutt and is now under the direction of  President and CEO Renee Box.

For more information on programs and services, ways to donate, or how to get involved, you can contact their direct line at (707) 649-4154, e-mail them at info@weihumanitarian.org, or visit their website. For frequent updates, you may also follow their Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

All information directly sourced from https://weihumanitarian.org/

The Vallejo Post’s coverage of local news in Solano County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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