Gaza Diary: Not a life for children
Gaza Diary: Not a life for children
Omar, a humanitarian worker in partnership with Oxfam
A young Palestinian girl wounded in an Israeli air strike on Gaza [GALLO/GETTY]
"Why us? Why are we cold? What is happening?" my children ask all the time.
They are six and two. When they ask for chocolate and I cannot give it to them, they ask why. I explain to them that it is because of the closure, but this does not explain things any further to them, they still ask: "Why? Why us?"
What they least understand is why their lives are being affected by something which they are not responsible for.
It is hard for me to explain. I am 37-years old and have spent my whole life under occupation. My father was a refugee from Barbara, my original village. He said to me the other day: "Son, we have never lived in a situation like this before. I hope that this will be the last time that we live like this, forever".
But people live in hope. They believe, even after all this time, that peace will return to us.
It has been five days now since I have had a shower. This is due to a lack of power to fuel the water system and to the hectic times that are upon us.
It is winter and we are all beginning to get very cold. Without electricity, all my family and I can do to stay warm it to huddle around a gas lamp. We cover ourselves in sheets.
Sometimes, I warm some water for my children to immerse their hands or feet in. But there is very little that we can do apart from hope that this will be the last time that we live like this.
The cold makes it difficult for us to get to sleep but even when we manage to, the blasts of Palestinian and Israeli rockets wake us throughout the night. The tremors and explosions scare my children so much that they now sleep with my wife and me.
They are so small and vulnerable and also very confused. They come home from school talking of Hamas and Fatah, but they do not understand the situation.
This is not a life for children. It is not for anyone.
Stress and anxiety
I try as best as I can to divert their attention away from the crisis that is continuing to unfold before them - I take them to the sea or to a relative's home.
I cannot even turn on the television because we have had no electricity for five days. To find out what's going on or whether or not there will be military operations I ask my colleagues in Jerusalem to keep me updated.
I also call my family every few hours to find out if they are OK.
My children live in an area of violence and hear on a daily basis people arguing, complaining and shouting about the situation. To be honest, they need some professional support for their stress and anxiety but, of course, this is not available to us.
Like many other children living in Gaza, they can rarely get away from the crisis, even while they sleep.
This situation is affecting a lot of children. The other day, when I went to my kid's school, the teacher said that 70 per cent of the children were failing their exams.
The stress of the situation, whether children realise it or not, will effect their education. It is not great for school work or anything at all.
A lack of good quality food, clean drinking water, milk, sleep, fear and cold are just some of the issues that the children of Gaza face.
The adults, too.
The unborn child
There is already little hope for the future for the children of Gaza but without education, they really have nothing. Education is the only capital that we have for our future.
My third child is due in March. This is just two months away.
As a father and a husband I am worried - really worried for my wife and my unborn child. How can she deliver a child when there is no electricity and little supplies in the hospitals?
Will she and our third child suffer as a result? These are some of the questions that keep me awake at night.
Speaking about this makes me want to cry, not just for my family but also for the people of Gaza.