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How to help humanitarian efforts in Israel and Gaza

A man walks through a makeshift emergency underground hospital in the parking lot of the Rambam Health Care Campus (RHCC) in Haifa in northern Israel.
Thomas Coex
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AFP via Getty Images
A man walks through a makeshift emergency underground hospital in the parking lot of the Rambam Health Care Campus (RHCC) in Haifa in northern Israel.

Officials and aid groups warn of a worsening humanitarian crisis in Israel and Gaza, where escalating violence has already killed thousands of people and wounded and displaced many others.

Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel on Saturday, firing rockets from Gaza and infiltrating the country by paraglider, motorbike and boat. They gunned down Israelis in multiple locations, including residential communities and a techno music festival, in the deadliest day for Jewish civilians since the Holocaust.

Israel retaliated immediately, including by putting Gaza — which is home to 2.3 million Palestinians — under full siege, cutting off its supply of fuel, electricity and food. It has also unleashed heavy bombardments, reducing entire neighborhoods to rubble. Officials say about one-tenth of its total population is internally displaced.

Residents are unable to leave Gaza, since the only border crossing to Egypt is closed after being hit by Israeli air strikes. That also means basic necessities and emergency relief can't get in.

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned on Thursday that "without electricity, hospitals risk turning into morgues."

The United Nations, the U.S., and others have called for a humanitarian corridor to be established. Egypt, the U.S. and Israel are in ongoing discussions about that, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk called on Palestinian armed groups to release all hostages and for all parties to respect international human rights law and stop targeting civilians.

"We are faced with an explosive powder keg situation," he said in a statement. "We know how this plays out, time and time again – the loss of Israeli and Palestinian lives and incalculable suffering inflicted on both communities."

As the world watches, many people may be looking to support humanitarian efforts on the ground. Below are some of the organizations doing that work.

First, a quick word of caution

Palestinian rescuers search the rubble of destroyed buildings in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Thursday.
Said Khatib / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Palestinian rescuers search the rubble of destroyed buildings in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Thursday.

Social media is awash with misinformation about the Israel-Hamas conflict, so it's especially important to verify that your money is going to organizations that are legitimate as well as effective.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends searching charities' names alongside "complaint," "review," "rating" and "scam" to see if any red flags come up. Another red flag would be if their website doesn't have detailed information about its mission and programs, or if you don't get a receipt after donating.

You can also run a search on one of several websites that review charities' track records, like CharityWatch and Charity Navigator. Some also compile lists of highly-rated charities responding to specific crises.

To maximize the impact of your donation, prioritize giving to organizations that already have a presence on the ground and will stay involved in the long-term, experts told NPR.

Here are some groups that are providing aid

The family of an Israeli soldier killed by Hamas militants cries at his funeral on Thursday.
Alexi J. Rosenfeld / Getty Images
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Getty Images
The family of an Israeli soldier killed by Hamas militants cries at his funeral on Thursday.

ActionAid is an international network dedicated to "building a just, equitable, and sustainable world in solidarity with communities on the frontlines of poverty and injustice," with a presence in Palestinian territories since 2007.

The group is calling for the safe passage of humanitarian aid to those who need it the most, and has set up an emergency response fund that it says will be used to deliver essential relief as soon as possible and sustain long-term disaster preparedness around the world.

Anera addresses the development and relief needs of refugees and others hurt by conflicts in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Jordan. It's working to provide humanitarian relief to Palestinians and residents of East Jerusalem.

According to its website, $30 can provide the Central Blood Bank Society in Gaza with 16 bags, $80 will provide a hygiene kit for two displaced families, $100 can provide a displaced family with enough food for seven to 10 days, and $200 will provide food to two families.

Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) describes itself as an "independent and impartial humanitarian organization" that delivers emergency medical care in places that need it.

It does not currently run medical programs in Israel — citing its strong emergency and health systems — but says it has offered support to Israeli hospitals treating a high number of casualties. It does provide medical care in Gaza and is focused on meeting immediate emergency needs there, including donating medical supplies.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is a "neutral, independent humanitarian organization" that responds to help people harmed by armed conflict and disasters in conflict zones.

The group says it immediately offered help to both sides. It's donated medical supplies to Gaza and is working with authorities to help identify missing people. It's working with Israel's Magen David Adom and the Palestine Red Crescent Society to help people who are wounded, sick and in need.

International Rescue Committee works in more than 40 countries and 28 U.S. cities to help people affected by humanitarian crises, in the short- and long-term.

It issued a statement condemning the toll of the violence across Israel and Gaza, and said it is "assessing needs on the ground and our capacity to ensure critical, life-saving humanitarian relief reaches affected civilian populations."

IsraAID is the largest humanitarian aid organization in Israel, and has responded to global disasters in over 50 countries. It's collecting donations through its Emergency Response Fund, and says its plans will develop as needs on the ground evolve.

So far, it's working local partners to: coordinate humanitarian activities in shelters housing evacuees from the Gaza border region, operate child-friendly spaces where kids can play and process, distribute resilience kits with stress relief activities for kids and families, train local teams on self-care and stress relief and train local mental health specialists on emergency-specific psychosocial support.

The Jewish Agency for Israel is a global nonprofit dedicated to securing "a vibrant Jewish future." Its Fund for Victims of Terror provides immediate financial assistance to victims and their families.

The group says it has disbursed hundreds of grants since the violence started, with representatives delivering checks of more than $1,000 within 48 hours of an event. It anticipates distributing more, as well as following up with long-term recovery and rehabilitative support.

The Jewish Federations of North America represents nearly 400 Jewish communities in the U.S. and Canada, and raises money to support the Jewish community on the continent and around the world.

It says it's working with core partners to support victims of terror, help rebuild infrastructure and address "the unprecedented levels of trauma" caused by the attack.

It launched a $500 million campaign to support Israelis, with funding to be divided between urgent humanitarian needs and long-term rebuilding and rehabilitation. The group said Thursday it's already allocated $10 million to 20 organizations providing emergency relief and support in Israel.

Magen David Adom is Israel's national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service — the equivalent of a Red Cross. It says donations will be used to make sure responders and volunteers have all the training, equipment and medical supplies (including blood) to treat injured people.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Bloomberg Philanthropies will match all donations to Magen David Adom.

Middle East Children's Alliance is a nonprofit dedicated to children's rights in the Middle East, and supports dozens of community projects for Palestinian children.

It says its team and partners are preparing to procure medical supplies for hospitals as well as provide emergency assistance to families who have fled their homes. Donations will go to provide medical aid, clean water, food and psychological support, it says.

Palestine Children's Relief Fund provides medical and humanitarian relief to Arab children, regardless of nationality or religion, and has had a presence in Gaza for some 30 years. It says donations mean access to medical care, mental health support and essential supplies for kids in Gaza.

Save the Children says it's disbursed $1 million from its emergency fund to help its teams respond to lifesaving needs in both Israel and Gaza "when it is safe to do so."

The NGO says its teams and their families are bracing for what's next, knowing that children have "never emerged unscathed" — both in terms of their physical and mental health. Donations to its Children's Emergency Fund will go towards warm blankets, nutritious food, health care and other supports.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East provides assistance and protection for Palestinian refugees. It says it is urgently seeking $104 million to support its "multi-sectoral humanitarian response over the coming 90 days."

Those funds will cover immediate food, non-food, health, shelter and protection needs of up to 250,000 people seeking shelter across the Gaza Strip. It says its current funding is only enough to cover regular services in the region through October. Eleven UNRWA staff and personnel have been killed in the Gaza Strip since Saturday.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in over 190 countries and territories to protect children's lives and rights. Spokesperson James Elder said 1.1 million children were already in need of humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank before the current escalation of violence.

UNICEF and its partners are on the ground in Gaza delivering medical supplies and fuel, as well as mental health and psychosocial support, he added.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.