8 June 2012
Mohammed Sahwal is 46-year-old father of ten living in Bureij camp in the Gaza strip. In 2005, Mohammed decided to start his own carpentry business, and with assistance from the YMCA, he was able to purchase all the necessary machinery to begin the project.
With hard work and perseverance, Mohammed’s business went well from the start, and he was able to export his wooden products to Israel. Carpentry work was promising and Mohammed expanded his work, hiring labourers and eventually renting two locations for a paint shop and a retail store in which to sell his products.
After Israel tightened its blockade of Gaza in 2007, Mohammed‘s life changed dramatically. No longer able to export his goods to Israel, and with raw materials prevented from entering Gaza, he suffered great financial losses. Mohammed could not find the materials he needed to continue his business and soon was unable to pay his labourers‘ wages.
Mohammed‘s business and life suffered; he lost the money he had invested and had to sell all the machinery he had bought to build up his business to cover both the monthly payments to the YMCA and further accumulated debts. In the end, he was forced to sell his own house to deal with the spiralling debt. Mohammed now rents. Having lost all hope of overcoming the hardships of his new life, he tried many times to commit suicide.
"It was difficult to cope with my new situation; I owned a carpentry business with many labourers, and now I have to beg for help from other people", said Mohammed.
Since Gaza has been under the Israeli blockade, work opportunities have decreased dramatically. Even for a skilled man like Mohammed, it was difficult to find work to support his family.
Currently, Mohammed and his family receive the support of UNRWA’s social safety-net, which covers basic food requirements to help diminish their food insecurity. He has also been receiving counselling services from UNRWA to help him better cope with the loss of his livelihood and stand on his feet again.
With the support of staff at the UNRWA office in his area, Mohammed was able to start a small business again. He is now selling tea and coffee in the market as a source of income to keep his family from begging in the streets.
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For interviews with Mohammed or with UNRWA officials, please contact Milina Shahin at [email protected].