After 20 days of lockdown in Gaza, we’ve asked our Maia Project Coordinator, Ghada Mansi, to tell us a little about how she’s coping with life under lockdown in the Gaza Strip and spending her days.
I don’t know if I should start with this, but my friends and family have nicknamed me “the Corona Bride” because literally 5 days after my engagement, full lockdown has been imposed on the Gaza Strip following the first community-transmitted case that was detected. As customs rule it here, we usually make this big festive announcement of our engagement, and so I’ve gotten an engagement dress, helped my fiance get a tie that matched my dress, bought the flowers, reserved a hall for men while preparing another hall for the females-only dance party (since we have separate celebrations), and invitations were sent out.
It was kind of a big deal because it was a well-known fact that I did not want to get married. It’s just not something I sought, but fate has a way of getting in the way of our plans I suppose. So everyone was bummed out that the engagement party was off, and me too. But personally it is more important for me that people are safe and healthy. I wanted the day of celebrating my engagement to be a carefree sort of celebration, not one where people are worried about being infected with a deadly virus or not.
Now regarding my daily routine after the lockdown in Gaza, it has changed tremendously. I feel that sometimes there’s this assumption that Gaza is rather lifeless after three violent attacks on it in the past 15 years, a blockade, shortage of power, toxic water, high unemployment rate, lack of medications etc. I won’t lie, all of this does make life harder, but life still persists on. That’s why when the lockdown was imposed, our entire daily routines were disrupted.
Personally, I’m not used to staying at home. Normally I’m out and about on a daily basis from at least 8 am until 5 or 6 pm. My work is mostly in the field visiting schools and kindergartens. And in addition to my work with MECA I’m also an active researcher in Wind Energy, Solar Energy, and so on. So I was active Every Single Day! Except for Fridays, which is normally the day I take to clean up the house and just chill a little.
So it’s been hard to just stay put, unable to move, and be productive. To be honest it means the world to me to know that I’ve been productive or that I was able to draw a smile on a child’s face or make someone happy, and normally my work with MECA gives me this sense of purpose and achievement … hence, losing that all of that suddenly was rather tough.
Additionally, I care deeply for animals, especially street animals that don’t have someone to attend to them and their needs. I used to either provide medical care for those who needed it, or get them to a shelter, or feed them. And now, I cannot do that and I have no idea how they’re doing on their own, how
they’re getting food, or even handling this heat wave.
Speaking of the heat wave, it’s been really tough. At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in Gaza, we only had electricity for a maximum of 4 hours a day! Most of the time we did have electricity was late at night when we were sleeping. After calculating when we’ll have electricity every day we actually had to set alarms to do our laundry and bake our bread or else we’d lose our chance. So you’d have our entire neighborhood up at midnight washing loads of clothes and baking bread. As for the heat, it’s beyond suffocating. It was difficult to sleep inside our homes because of the heat, so we’d go outside (we have a small garden and seating area) where there’s some breeze and sleep there in the open. Now, we are supposed to get 8 hours of electricity daily, but we only receive 6 hours which is better than 4 but still …
During the first 12 days of the lockdown, we actually did not move outside of our house. I live there with my siblings, their children, and my mother (my father has passed away). We were so worried about getting infected by the virus and endangering the lives of my mother and the children in the house. I’ve already lost a parent once, and this kind of loss terrifies me. I was not about to endanger the lives of my mother and nephews, especially that we have a newborn baby in the house. So we stayed put for two straight weeks, only using the food we already.
Yet with all these difficulties that I mentioned, my family and I are of the lucky ones. At least we have the open space to enjoy some breeze to lift some of the heat off, at least no one has any chronic diseases that need special devices or medications. Yet we do not forget about the thousands of children and families who don’t have the inhalers, medications, food, clean water they need to survive. We also do not forget about children now in refugee camps stuck in one or two rooms with no space to move or means of entertainment, no fans to ease the heat where children are literally sleeping on the floors to cool off a little and be able to get some sleep.
That is why I am proud of MECA and of being part of MECA. This organization along with others in Gaza has risen to the occasion and provided much needed support to families facing such hard conditions, where we’ve provided food parcels, hygiene kits, fans that work on batteries (for the lack of electricity), alternative sources of power that could help light up to three rooms of each house, and our work is far from done, but with the continuous support of the different donors, supporters, volunteers and organizations we’ll continue on going.
If there’s this one thing we’ve learnt from these hard conditions we’ve been living in for what feels like forever, it’s that we need to be there for each other. There’s always something we can do, whether it is installing water purification units so children can have access to clean water, or distributing fans with batteries, or hygiene kits and food parcels from farms and farmers in Gaza, feeding street animals and finding shelters for them, postponing a celebration until there is no more spread of the virus. Little things or big, there is always something to do where we can have a positive impact on someone, somewhere, at the time when they most need it.
So if there’s anything you can do today to lift someone up in these hard, hard times: just do it!
Ghada Mansi, Maia Project Coordinator, is an engineer living in Deir El Balah town in Gaza, Palestine. She oversees the installation of new water purification units for schools through Gaza, regularly checking the water quality at each school, and following up any necessary maintenance and repairs. Ghada is also the cofounder of the Sketch Engineering Company which aims to use engineering to improve life for the local community by solving some of the problems for everyday life under occupation and siege in Gaza.