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Gaza: opening the road to new possibilities

29-02-2008 Feature

Contacts with the outside world – and to the local school – are easier now for the people at Wadi Salqa, an agricultural community, after the ICRC helped rehabilitate a track. New jobs have also been created, to help overcome the difficult economic situation.

The ICRC has handed over the Wadi Salqa agricultural road to the local community. The rehabilitation was in response to an urgent demand from this village of around 5,000 people. With the help of local workers, the ICRC has cleared and graded the old track, replacing it with a " kurkar " , a sand road.

The new road    
    The road now directly links people in the surrounding area with their local school, health centre, and municipality building. Previously, they either had to make a three-kilometre detour along another road, or clamber around the various obstacles along the existing track.
" The track was very rough, almost impassable for pedestrians, " says Ashraf Saduni, the ICRC engineer in charge of the project. " In winter, it often flooded with water, and the community was worried about dangers of snakes and rats, which were present amongst the cactus plants and other debris. "
The rehabilitation project has also helped to generate employment and income for local workers, many of whom had lost their jobs as a result of the deteriorating economic situation in the area. The project has been an indirect way to support more than 300 families, many of whom are living in severe economic hardship.
The road took around 3 months to complete, and most materials were bought locally. The design of the surrounding fencing had to be adjusted after the Israeli authorities banned the import of cement for the Strip.
Abu Shadi, a local farmer, is in no doubt about the road's benefits: " I have six children, and at least I am reassured that they can get to school quickly and safely. "
The new road is not only accessible to pedestrians but – for the first time – to vehicles. Farmers who could previously only access their land on foot, or in some cases by donkey cart, are now able to bring in vehicles to help them with ploughing, and to transport their crops to market.
" The road has barely been completed and we are already seeing the benefits, " says Saduni. " Land that was derelict is being planted with vegetables and additional crops, which will in turn bring more income. The road really is a vital artery for this community. "