Fifteen Handicap International teams are deployed throughout Gaza to seek out people with disabilities and injuries and meet their most pressing needs. Samah Abu Lamzy, Handicap International’s project manager in the Gaza Strip, explains the problems facing the families we meet in the field.
The successive ceasefires in Gaza have enabled us to visit the vulnerable families we have been talking with over the phone during the fighting. We’re now supplying them with basic aid and trying to get a clearer idea of their needs.
This week, for example, I saw Obaida, a little boy with disabilities who had to flee his home with his entire family. He’s living with his mother and brothers and sisters in a classroom which they share with 70 other displaced people. Obaida’s mother is worried and distraught because she’s lost her home. She’s also pregnant, and, under these conditions, she can’t get the medical care she needs. Even accessing the toilets is difficult because the school isn’t designed to accommodate so many people.
During my visit, a Handicap International physical therapist performed rehabilitation exercises with Obaida, which he greatly enjoyed. His smile should have made me happy, but it just reminded me how innocent he is and how unfair it is that he’s having to go through this.
At another school I met Mohammed, whose worn out wheelchair needed adjustments. At the moment, he’s living with 120 other people in a single school room. “We’re given two bottles of water a day, and tinned food, which we divide up into small portions to make it feel like breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” Mohammed explained. “I don’t sleep at night anymore. The pupils are probably coming back to school soon, and I’m worried that we’re going to have to leave without having found anywhere else to go.”