By: Ruba Akkila
I was given a chance to participate in a field trip together with local, international and UN organizations[i] to witness the impact of electricity outages on the disabled in the Gaza Strip. Being a local, I already know what it means to have electricity cut for at least 20 hours a day. This issue mountains the complications of the foolish politics resulted from Israeli occupation and the political division resulted in restriction of movement of people and goods, “hard to get” medical referral as well as salaries cut combined with forced early retirement of public officials. I walked into different Gaza neighborhoods and houses witnessing the injustices against the poor and the vulnerable: It was hard to see the how the lives of the disabled, women, children, and elderly changing and to closely observe the impact of the situation within an open conversations with helpless people. It was also very hard to see men trying to hold their tears in a patriotic society where men cannot even complain because they should be the protectors and providers for their families.
I walked into the first house of L.S. a 16 year old boy who suffers from severe mobility complications resulted from cerebral palsy. The boy depends totally on his mother for eating and showering. He was forced to lie on his bed or remain tightened to a wheel chair. He suffers from bed soreness because the electric mattress which helps to gently flip his body is useless when 20 hours of electricity is cut. When electricity outages start, his mother has to carry his heavy body because the medical mattress is made of nylon that could worsen the sores in his body. I had a side conversation with his mother and she said “he became very violent with his siblings and he shouts at them because he feels helpless and he cannot go out with the scooter, which needs to be charged for at least 8 hours. “He used to go out driving the scooter but he cannot anymore”. I spoke with the shy boy immediately and asked him about where he likes to go with the scooter and he immediately said “the sea” with a big smile on his face “and the public park as well”. The mother also told me that that her husband’s salary is not enough to provide for the family and the financial burden has increased because of the salaries cuts. The Ministry of Social Affairs is not responsible for the child as his father works for the government and he has what they call “an income”. The man cried at this moment and I went speechless. I said goodbye with the group of visitors in order to visit another place in Shujayya. At that moment, I was also thinking that the poor boy does not know that “the amount of poorly treated sewage dumped into the sea is increasing, now equivalent to 43 Olympic size pools daily”. The see he knows is not the same anymore. Anyway, I had to head to the second destination, Shejayya. [ii]
A.A couple welcomed us warmly into their simple house, and walked us into a living room, where 3 children were lying on a medical mattress. They all seemed like 2 year old children but to my shock one of them was Female R. 14, M. 11 and MA 2 years old. The mother put the crying M.A. in a cuddle while talking to us. The poor children needed the food processor to eat and their mother could not do more than one meal a day. Last year, she lost a boy because of malnutrition and because of soreness which the 3 children suffer from. Luckily, the family was connected to electricity and the children enjoyed having the fan and the electrical mattress when we were there. When we left, I was sure that she will have to flip them and may be move them from one place to another wiping the sweat coming out of their body the next hour we left. Gaza is very humid place, and this woman had a lot to do to. The husband felt ashamed talking about lack of money and his debts to the shop, but the wife told us that she needs a pack of diapers for the children every other day. Soreness in their body resulted from the low quality of the diapers they use but this is all what the family could offer. Her late boy was not the only victim I heard of passing away because of soreness, but also the friend of F.A. to whom we paid the next visit.
F.A. is a 24 year young man whose suffering started few years ago when he was fixing electrical machine at home and fell from a chair which affected his spine. Before that, he used to be a local champion in weight lifting and he used to play basket ball. Because he cannot charge the scooter, he cannot see his friends and he is forced to stay on bed and started to have the same soreness that killed his friend.
The human suffering of the people in Gaza continues and basic rights continue to be violated. I am fed up with political interoperations and justifications and people had enough of stupid arguments. They are either feelingless or beggars. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could be justifying the unfair conditions they live every single day.
I just wonder, is anyone listening?