December 29, 2008

Situation Update: JDC's Response in the Southern Conflict Region

Map of Conflict Region -Click on the map to enlarge

UPDATE - December 29:
It is now in day two of missile barrages in Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and the Gaza Border Region.

Over 60 rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel since Monday morning (Israel time) - nine of which hit Ashkelon, five struck Sderot and four others struck various towns in the western Negev, including a tragic fatality in the town of Netivot.

Two Katyusha rockets exploded near Ashdod on Sunday. More than 18 miles from Gaza and north of the city of Ashkelon, this was the deepest into Israel a Palestinian rocket has yet to strike. These new rockets now have a range of up to 24 miles. Today has already claimed another life, this time in the city of Ashkelon—with an additional 14 wounded.

Senior staff members of JDC are travelling down to Sderot at this moment, and will be meeting with the Mayor to assess immediate needs in the region.

JDC: Responding to Emergency Needs in the Southern Conflict Zone
Since 2000, JDC has worked to help the region's communities cope with the challenges of constant attack by providing support to the most vulnerable sectors – elderly, Israelis with disabilities, children and new immigrants – and working to enhance the capacity of local governments and NGOs to assist residents. JDC works in partnership with the Israeli government and local agencies to provide both emergency and non-emergency services.

JDC honed its expertise in providing emergency respite and trauma relief programs for vulnerable Israelis during and after the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Emergency programs for communities in the southern Israel were developed and implemented through UJC’s and UJC’s Israel Emergency Campaign funding.

These funds, which have offered comfort and security where it is most needed, are now depleting. Their scope and impact has become limited – and in some cases, has ceased altogether. In the past 24 hours, JDC has been made aware of increasing numbers of people and municipalities in need of urgent assistance. This ‘rationing’ of services comes about even as trauma experts, JDC staff, local professionals and residents repeatedly testify to these programs’ effectiveness and ability to generate improvement and impact, even under impossible circumstances.

In preparing for the recent events in Israel’s Southern Region, JDC has mapped out responses to the following scenarios.

Possible Scenarios
1. Current Level of Attacks: Continued rocket fire, at its present level, would require increased activity in existing programs for all vulnerable populations living in the range of fire.

2. Increased Level of Attacks: In the case of escalated attacks JDC will provide multi-day respite vacations for vulnerable individuals – specifically 3,000 elderly and 3,000 people with severe physical and mental disabilities along with their caregivers. For those populations who will not be part of these respite activities, JDC will also operate trauma-relief programs and activities for children and families in bomb shelters.

3. Region-Wide Evacuation: Should the current situation develop into a major military operation requiring region-wide evacuation of Israeli citizens, JDC will work in coordination with the Israeli government to provide the necessary relief.

JDC Programs
1. Improving the Region’s Crisis Management Capacity – JDC is improving the region’s ability to respond to residents’ needs through the implementation of what are now two proven program models: YUVAL, which boosts the organizational resilience of first-response emergency crews; and MATOV, which improves municipality’s coordination with local nonprofits and community organizations in providing relief and care. A JDC Emergency Response Consultant works with the city’s top leadership in mapping needs and existing resources to enhance response time and effectiveness. Given the reality of the past 24 hours, with a widened area now in the fire zone, there is a need to expand JDC's ongoing emergency-response consultation.

2. Children - JDC established educational and psychological programs to help the region's children cope with and overcome their trauma, and to allow for their continued academic and social development. These include afternoon enrichment programs; training and support for psychologists, teachers and counselors; post-traumatic therapy; support programs for children with special needs; equipping school facilities; and creating Havens of Calm, facilities within schools for children requiring trauma support, a space where they can go for comfort and to safely express their fears.

Notably, JDC introduced its Hibbuki and Red Color Song Programs to help alleviate children's stress as well as identify and treat severe trauma cases. The ‘Hibbuki’ (Huggy) doll, a stuffed animal with Velcro strips on its long arms, works by actually ‘hugging’ and transferring therapeutic responsibility to children. The Red Color Song helps youngsters cope with the stress of repeated Red Color alerts, which signal the need to seek immediate refuge in a secure area.

As the situation escalates, the reality becomes more painful: JDC needs the wherewithal to work in far more locations that it already does.

3. Physical Security - JDC has helped strengthen the security and building infrastructure at Elderly Daycare Centers and other key facilities serving vulnerable populations.

4. Respite Care - for elderly residents and residents with disabilities. Working with local partners to identify those most in need of respite, JDC has provided these individuals with a much-needed break from the anxiety and danger of constant shelling. The day-trips and short breaks in hotels around the country include guided day tours and psychological support.

5. Helping the Helpers (YUVAL) - JDC has developed additional supportive services for professionals serving vulnerable populations working in the conflict region through the YUVAL program. These services, which include labor augmentation, respite and post-trauma workshops, have helped professionals cope with their incredibly stressful workload as they provide invaluable services to their constituents.

6. Boosting the Regional Economy - In addition to the psychological and physical damage, the escalation is also dealing a harsh economic blow to the region. JDC's Employment Initiative, TEVET, has cooperated with organizations in southern Israel including the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Small and Medium Enterprises Authority and the Small Business Development Center (MATI) to boost the region's small business sector.

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