A refugee diary

10 June 2012

3 June 2012
Gaza

The recent hot, dry winds made me think that summer was coming early this year. I started thinking of things like summer clothes for the kids, the joys of showering in cool water and sitting on the beach with the children, and playing in the sand (even if we can’t swim in the sea because it’s polluted from the sewage). But this lovely image of Gaza is not the whole picture since Gaza’s borders were sealed; its people have endured Israeli military incursions and air strikes and suffer from the lack of basic commodities from paper for books to medicines for the sick and vaccines for the young.

On my way to work today, I saw long queues of cars in front of the petrol stations. Many of the people—who had been waiting there since the early hours—were taxi drivers much disgruntled because they hadn’t been able to work for weeks owing to the fuel shortages… And they had families to support. We had heard that fuel was available, but it seems the petrol station owners had been keeping it to sell on the black market at a higher cost. I feel lucky that I don’t have to go to work by taxi. The pictures of university students, patients and old women waiting in the street for hours for a taxi are devastating and heartbreaking.

Since the Israeli blockade was imposed on the Gaza Strip in June 2007, things have changed dramatically. The unemployment rate has risen and the majority of Gazans are now dependant on welfare and humanitarian organisations for food supplies. If any of these organisations were to experience a sudden funding crisis, many Gazan families would find themselves begging on the streets.

Prices in Gaza’s markets have doubled if not trebled. In fact, the markets are almost empty due to the closures - you can rarely find good quality clothes, food or medication. It took me days to find some summer clothes for the kids - not because I am a picky person, but because there was nothing left to buy. It has become particularly problematic to find shoes, as there is not a single functioning shoe factory in Gaza due to the lack of raw materials.

Even before this blockade of Gaza, we were suffering from a shortage of clean drinking water, but the situation has become much worse. Now it is not only a question of the lack of clean water; it is also—ironically—the chemicals that are being added to treat the water so that people can drink it. I’ve heard many warnings that we should boil our water. Since then I’ve noticed that the water we use for washing, cooking and showering smells, but I am forced to use it as I don’t have an alternative.

Najwa Sheikh
UNRWA, Gaza

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