For over 12 years, Fahmi Salameh Abu Ruwwa, a Palestine refugee living in Tulkarm, watched helplessly as his family’s life deteriorated. They lived in the suburbs of Tulkarm city, homeless, a family of 10 without a roof over their heads, their only protection against the cold of night or bad weather plastic sheets.
With Fahmi unemployed and suffering from a mental illness, the family’s condition grew progressively worse. His wife, Itaf, explains that three of their eight children also suffer from disabilities; their living conditions made one son’s mental challenges even worse. Schoolmates mocked his homelessness, compounding the problem; “He ended up quitting school, and now he lies in bed for most of the day,” she says.
Itaf made several attempts to seek help and attention for her family. Eventually, donations helped begin construction on a house, but before plastering, tiles and toilets could be installed, the funds – and hope – were completely depleted.
The shelter-rehabilitation programme of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through the Saudi Fund for Development, managed to provide both. US$ 6,634 turned the building into a place the family can call home, changing the lives of these ten Palestine refugees.
Itaf, two months after completion, calls it “a blessing from God. Finally we have a house with a door that I can close and leave my children behind in security. We have three bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. I feel like we live in a castle.”
Itaf and Fahmi’s story is unique, but many Palestine refugees face similar situations. UNRWA social workers and engineers carry out detailed research to determine those families most in need of assistance. Many are still waiting for support to help meet their most basic needs.