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Abu Jamous family: Life in a wooden caravan

Khuza'a, Gaza Strip- "Um-Fat'hi" put her little one in the baby cot and took her outside to catch some sunshine, as the inside of their temporary shelter (wooden caravan) never sees any sun. The caravan stood right next to their home in Khuza'a, east of Khan Younus. The house was completely destroyed by Israel during the 2014 aggression on the Gaza Strip.

You reach the site of the caravans with great difficulty, after your feet sink in huge mud puddles caused by the heavy rains. Once you reach the spot where Abu-Fat'hi Abu-Jamous and his family live, you are faced by the shocking living conditions and the bitterness of waiting for the elusive dream of reconstruction. To the Abu-Jamous family, nightfall constitutes a real nightmare, he described the long night hours saying, "To us, night means extreme cold, a fire pit, and an endless wait for daybreak that seems to take an eternity".
With a tone of discontent, he adds, after the quiet and peaceful life that I had with my family in our house that I built through years of sweat and hard work, I find myself with my family of six, huddled up together in one room to try and keep our little children's bodies warm and shelter them from the bitter cold.

It is because of what befell them during the war and helplessness and miserable living conditions that Abu-Fat'hi looks much older than he really is. He tells us of some of some scenarios he went through living in this wooden caravan that protects you neither from heat of summer, nor cold of winter. He says, "On rainy nights, we virtually get no sleep, the rain drops fall on our tin roof sounding like bullets, not to mention water seeping in through the poorly constructed roof and floor that have no kind of water proofing, not even a simple plastic sheet.
His wife looked weary and bewildered, she said: "I am no longer capable of managing my family, one of my four children suffers from Rickets (Ostemalacia), and another suffers from an enlarged liver. Both suffer greatly because of these new living conditions forced upon us by the destruction of our home. I don’t have enough clothes to keep them warm, however, i do my best to manage things, but our needs by far exceed our means".

Um Fat'hi broke her leg when a wooden board underneath her leg snapped as she stepped onto the shabby caravan floor; it had eroded because of poor workmanship and materials, in addition to the constant seeping in of rain water. The suffering was not only limited to winter, "Last summer says Um-Fat'hi, one of my children was almost bitten in the head by a snake while sleeping, and it was only by God's grace that my husband was able to save him in the last minute".

Abu-Fat'hi's family stories of suffering don’t do not stop here, "one night he said, I got up to prepare for dawn prayer, as I went into the bathroom, I was shocked to find a huge cloud of smoke engulfing the place, one of the fuse boxes had caught fire. I grabbed the fire extinguisher, but it was empty, as are most extinguishers given to the displaced families. Again, it was by the grace of God that we were saved and I managed to disconnect the main power source".

Abu-Fat'hi is unemployed; he has a wrist injury that rendered him unable to perform any kind of manual labor. He complains of the lack of interest and responsibility by officials towards their plight, and he is unable to provide the simple bare necessities to keep the wheel of life turning for his family. He continues, whatever humanitarian aid we receive is insufficient, my little baby girl needs a special kind of milk, even that I am unable to provide.

Abu-Fat'hi hopes that the reconstruction process speeds up a bit. It has been delayed for too long, and this delay only exasperates the suffering of families that live in caravans. His destroyed flat is on the third floor of the family building. At the pace the reconstruction process is going, he wonders when it will be his turn to rebuild. "Only God knows" he says. 

By: Majida Balbisy