Raed, 45, shares a three-room, tin-roofed house in Deir al-Balah refugee camp with his extended family of 12. His wife and three of his children suffer from chronic diseases. He spoke to Al Mezan about the hardship that the pandemic crisis has inflicted on him and his family:
“I spent most of my life working as a fisherman but the increasing attacks, arbitrary arrests, and restrictions on fishermen by the Israeli authorities coupled with diminishing financial returns forced me to seek a different occupation in 2010. I rented a small place near my house and started a sewing business with my son Mohammed who had learnt the craft.
The income was enough to cover our minimum needs, but the recent two coronavirus-induced lockdowns have drastically impacted our small business and taken a toll on our income. The first lockdown in March 2020 wasn’t as long or restrictive. We managed to go back to work, and even though we were earning less than pre-pandemic revenue, it was still enough to meet our household basic needs.
The current lockdown, though, is increasingly challenging with each passing day. Since its start in August after the first COVID-19 cases outside quarantine centers were detected, I’ve complied with the authorities’ safety guidelines and closed the business. I was also encouraged to do so for fear of my own family contracting the viral disease. My wife, Camellia, 43, suffers from diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. My 15-year-old daughter, Waad, and 23-year-old son, Mohammed, are also diabetic, and Amal, my 20-year-old daughter, has cerebral palsy. Mohammed’s wife and son also live with us.
Closing the store means losing our only means of subsistence. I can no longer provide for my family. The electricity crisis is compounding our suffering as the few hours of electricity supply daily are not enough to operate the medical bed and nebulizer Amal needs in order to stay alive. I feel helpless, and I fear losing her.
I can’t afford to buy desalinated water when the municipal water supply is delayed due to the shortage in electricity. The health risks facing my immunocompromised wife and children are growing rapidly and so is my anxiety. I have been borrowing money to put food on the table every day. I’m in desperate need of help and can’t guarantee my family’s safety in this pandemic, especially in a packed house like this.
Alternative energy sources are beyond unaffordable at this point. I implore the competent authorities and international organizations to help me install one as soon as possible. It’s the only way to care for my daughter Amal and keep her alive. I also call on the authorities to support low-income families and daily-wage laborers.”