Gazans struggle with siege, storms

Cooking on a mud stove in Gaza.

Early each morning, Um Atiya makes toast on a mud stove. She has become reliant on the stove since Israel’s 51-day attack on Gaza in July and August last year. Electricity and cooking gas are scarce throughout the Gaza Strip.

The situation has been particularly difficult in recent weeks. Gaza’s power plant was shut down on December 28, its fuel reserves exhausted due to lack of funds. Um Atiya only has six hours of electricity a day.

Nawraz Abu Jaama makes mud stoves about two kilometres from Gaza’s boundary with Israel. The stoves are made from mud dug from the remains of local wells.

Before last summer, she seldom sold more than three stoves a month. Now she sells between five and seven.

Gaza’s 1.8 million residents have also had to endure heavy rainfall and cold weather in recent weeks. Two babies from Khan Younis died as a result, AFP reported on Jaunary 10.

Many families have not been able to find proper shelter. More than 100,000 homes were damaged during Israel’s attack.

Although US$5.4 billion was promised at a donors’ conference for Gaza in October, aid agencies report that little reconstruction has actually taken place.

Israel has severely restricted the amount of building material allowed into Gaza. The siege of Gaza continues.

Some aid workers have estimated that the amount of material brought into Gaza during the three months after Israel’s attack was just one-third of what entered in the three months preceding it. According to Oxfam, only 287 truckloads of materials were delivered to Gaza in November.

Ahmad Radwan, an Arabic teacher in Khan Younis, said that Huda, as the recent storm is known, was very trying for his family.

“My wife and I had to stay awake all that night in order to protect our children from the rain,” he said. “We kept clearing out the water.”

Radwan, who has seven children, lives in an apartment at the top of a three-story building. Some of the building’s walls have fallen down. Others have been left with holes.

“All of our furniture, including our blankets, have been damaged,” said his wife Lubna. “Every single part of the apartment is damaged. Even my bathroom has no walls now.

“When will the reconstruction start here? When?”

“We stay in front of a wood fire all the day long,” Ahmad added. “When night falls, we leave our destroyed apartment and head for my parents-in-law’s home to get some sleep. I do not know how we cope.”

[Abridged from Electronic Intifada. Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.]

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