Widowed father rebuilds home and life with UNRWA

17 June 2010

17 June 2010
Arroub Camp, West Bank

After the death of his wife, 38-year-old refugee Hassan and his two young daughters spent eight years living in a home with no entrance door, no plastering, no windows, no kitchen; not even a bathroom.

Now, with support from UNRWA, he has built a new home in the West Bank’s Arroub camp.

Hassan started work on his old home when he worked as a labourer in Israel years ago. He began working double shifts when his wife became pregnant with their second child, leaving him with no time to finish work on the shell of their house.

In 2002, his wife died, leaving him to care for their two daughters, Niveen and Aseel. Their shelter – with no doors, no windows, and just a curtain to cover the door opening – was beyond imagination. The family’s kitchen utensils consisted of just one pan.

Access restrictions

The second Intifada and access restrictions across the West Bank have had severe repercussions on Palestinians’ daily lives. Jobs became scarce and like many labourers, Hassan struggled to find work.

Unemployed, Hassan slipped into depression after his wife’s death. With no money, hopeless, the family continued to live in dire conditions for eight years, until visited by UNRWA’s shelter rehabilitation unit.

The team includes social workers and engineers who investigate every aspect of refugee’s life to determine eligibility for rehabilitation.

They found Hassan, Nivin and Asil living in one room and sleeping on an old, dirty mattress. The other room was full of plastic bags the girls collect to burn – either to cook or to stay warm during the cold winter nights. Hassan bathed outside, but the girls were afraid to do so, especially at night.

Support for new home

For $3,500, UNRWA has helped this family to build a new bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Hassan had an option to work on it himself, or hire contractors.

Hassan opted for self-employment, with the hope that he could save enough to repair the shelter’s second room. He proved an adept worker and even managed to find extra jobs, helping him buy kitchen cabinets and other basics not covered by UNRWA’s assistance. With his hard work, he managed to rehabilitate the entire shelter.

His new wife says he would have stayed single without UNRWA’s assistance. For Niveen and Assel, the pleasure is in the smallest things: a warm room, a stove and their new mum’s cooking. There are many stories like Hassan’s throughout West Bank refugee camps. UNRWA’s programme measures its success through the impact it has on refugees’ lives, not the amount of money spent. For Hassan, the effect is immense.

For more information, please contact:

Public Information Office
UNRWA Field Office West Bank
Tel: 02 589 0408
Fax: 02 589 0751

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