Winter Chill in Gaza Leaves Local Woman Struggling to Keep Her Family Warm

© REUTERS / MOHAMMED SALEMA Palestinian sits by a fire warming himself as a man looks on, on a rainy cold night at Beach refugee camp in Gaza City
A Palestinian sits by a fire warming himself as a man looks on, on a rainy cold night at Beach refugee camp in Gaza City - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.02.2022
Poverty rates in the coastal enclave currently stand at 59 percent, so most Gazans are financially unable to protect themselves from the cold weather. One local woman says the authorities are not doing enough to help them out.
This winter has been exceptionally cold and rainy in the Middle East, with temperatures falling below zero in some areas. Many places have been covered with heavy snow.

Feeling the Rain

In the Gaza Strip, the situation has been acute. In mid-January, Hamas authorities closed schools temporarily in light of deteriorating weather conditions as rain water levels reached a meter, disrupting the drainage system and blocking some of the roads.
"This season has been unbearable," said Samira al-Ghoulah, a 55-year-old Palestinian from the Al-Shajaeya neighbourhood in the east of Gaza city.
"My children and I are living in a one-bedroom apartment. The walls of the flat have been damaged by water, and every time there is rain, we feel it inside our house," she added.
Up until 2007, when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, prompting Israel to impose a blockade over the enclave, Al-Ghoulah and her nine children had lived in relatively decent conditions. Her husband used to work inside Israel, bringing a stable monthly salary.
However, when tensions between the Jewish state and the Islamic group escalated, he lost his job, forcing the family to say farewell to the rented house they were residing in. They needed to make due with a unit that has been rapidly falling apart.
"We don't have electricity during many hours of the day. That's why we resort to burning wood, and that often means that we need to choose between warmth and oxygen," the 55-year-old complained.

Life in Poverty

Al-Ghoulah is far from being alone. Poverty rates have always been high in the Gaza Strip, which has been blockaded by Israeli since 2007 amid a number of military confrontations between the two.
But the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 has only exacerbated the situation, pushing poverty rates to unprecedented heights. Today, 59 percent of the enclave’s population is poor; five years ago this figure was 43 percent. Unemployment has also been high, at 45 percent.

Struggling to Stay Afloat

The Palestinian woman says she has been trying hard to improve her living conditions. Her older sons have been working as street vendors earning some $10 a day, but it’s hardly enough to keep the family afloat.
The family has also been relying on the donations from the United Nations refugee agency, UNRWA. The international body has been providing food and medical assistance to the Palestinians for years and Al-Ghoulah's family is no exception. But that support, says the woman, is hardly enough when one has "nine kids to feed".
Just like many other impoverished people in the Strip, Al-Ghoulah blames Hamas for the dire situation.
"They don't really care about our suffering. All they want is to keep collecting taxes, including from low income families. And those, who don't pay, they cut their electricity and water supplies."
Yet, her rage is directed not only at Hamas. It is directed towards Israel too, but Al-Ghoulah says she is hopeful that one day the situation will change for the better, the blockade will be lifted and the Palestinians will return to their ordinary lives again.
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