This time, we’ve asked Wafaa El-Derawi, our Gaza Projects Assistant, to give us her own personal outlook on the Gaza lockdown due to COVID-19 outbreak in the Strip.
“It was the most difficult time ever. Suddenly life seemed to have stopped;
The curfew imposed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip was extremely harsh and relatively incomparable to most lockdown experiences around the world. The situation here has its own peculiarity, here we live under an-already strict siege by the Israeli military occupation. Another form of siege is also the internal political fractures we’re dealing with, and the horrible state of poverty that is overwhelming the Gaza Strip. On top of all of that, now we have COVID-19 to deal with as well.
Unfortunately, we do not have many options to limit the spread of the virus. In reality we have only two options. The first option is to find a way to coexist with the virus and accordingly we’ll be depleting an already deteriorated health system. And the second option is to impose a curfew as is happening now, and this also is beyond difficult to execute. Why? There are many reasons, but the most prominent one is that approximately 80% of the people in Gaza are not able to secure their daily bread and basic needs. Asking people to abide by such curfew in such an already harsh reality is a death sentence.
When I went out for the first time during the curfew, heading to my father’s pharmacy, the sight of the empty hollow streets reminded me of the 2014 Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip. Same empty streets, same few pale faces, same frustration and fear of the unknown. But maybe what’s happening now is even worse. Every time I think that more and more people are sinking below the poverty line, I’m terrified.
Pandemics are scary, but poverty just as much if not more. Poverty also is a merciless form of attack on human life and dignity. And as long as we try to keep holding on to life, do our part, and actively resist this situation, sometimes it’s hard not to lose hope.
When I was asked by my colleagues to write this blog post about my daily life under quarantine, I was almost ashamed to write it. I did not want to focus on how my daily routine went by without also shedding light on what’s happening to my people trying to make it through these hard conditions. Working with MECA, while also helping my father in our pharmacy has brought me closer to people, their concerns, their needs, even their aspirations and visions for the future.
We have daily conversations with small shops and stalls owners. These people who have no source of income now after already having a very limited source of income to begin with. It’s times like these that urge us even more to fulfill our responsibility of giving back to our communities and not leave our people alone.
You’ve asked about what’s a daily life routine under quarantine in the Gaza Strip? Well, I’ve discovered during this lockdown that I’m actually a pretty good cook so I spend most of my time in the kitchen. Other than that, I spend my time reading, considering books to be the best of friends in these tough times of social distancing. My recent close friend is a book called “While the World Sleeps” by Susan Abulhawa (the Arabic title for “Mornings in Jenin”), the book talks about generational suffering and trauma, intercepted with love, laughter, adherence to life and some few victories that drew a smile on my face while going through the book and gave me a little bit of hope in these hard times.
Right now what I need the most is hope. Someone else might need love, another would need food on the table, while others would need more electricity, medications, access to health facilities, being able to move … etc, and even though we could not provide support to everyone who needs it, it’s always good to start somewhere. This start could be through MECA, personal initiatives, or with other organizations that are working their best to support people in different ways during this horrible pandemic and lockdowns.
So in these hard times, it’s important to take care of oneself and others, step back a little, figure out what you can do, and go ahead and do it.