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Palestinian Amputees Find Work and Hope in Red Cross Program

“After I have begun teaching these kids with the help of the ICRC, I feel much better, as I do something good and help my own family.”

Four hundred Palestinian amputees from Gaza who lost limbs in Israeli army attacks on the coastal region over the past several years have found jobs thanks to a Red Cross program which is enabling them to be self-sufficient and help their families live more easily.

The amputees’ jobs have been made possible with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza. The ICRC has funded hundreds of micro-projects for the amputees since 2016.

Essam’s Coffee Shop

On the beachfront of Gaza’s seaport lives Essam Ghanem a 40-year-old father of four and an amputee since he was 14 years old. For the past year, he has worked as the proud owner of a coffee shop. Essam received a financial grant of $2,000 from the Red Cross to start his business.

Essam Ghanem at his coffee shop. (Photo by Rami Almeghari)

Essam Ghanem ready to serve customers at his coffee shop. (Photo by Rami Almeghari)

“I have felt very happy as this place has turned out to be great for me,” said Essam. “I have self-confidence now that I own and run a business of my own. Before, I always felt that I am not a good father, staying idle in front of my sons. Now, I can be a good model for my sons and I can say, ‘I have returned back to life,'” Essam told Citizen Truth after serving a customer with a cup of coffee at his small coffee shop at the seaport area, west of Gaza city.

Back in 1987, during the first Palestinian uprising or Intifada, Essam’s right leg received multiple gunshots by Israeli soldiers when the soldiers opened fire on a group of stone throwers in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip.

Ice Cream, Beverages and Catering

Another beneficiary of the ICRC-funded projects is 29-year-old Ahmad Abu Aasi, from the eastern Gaza city’s neighborhood of Alshijaiya. Since 2016, Ahmad has been running an ice-cream and beverage shop.

During the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza, Ahmad’s legs were hit by shrapnel from an Israeli drone-fired missile. He was wounded when he and others were rescuing wounded neighbors. Since then, the man has been using special equipment attached to his ankles.

Ahmad Abu Asi serves customers of his catering business. (Photo: Rami Almeghari)

Ahmad Abu Asi serves customers of his catering business. (Photo: Rami Almeghari)

To enable him to start the business, the ICRC provided Ahmad with $3,000. With the help of the fund, Ahmad was able to hire workers and resume his 12-year business of catering for weddings.

“They gave me the grant in three installments, for a period of one month,” Ahmad told Citizen Truth while serving a local wedding banquet in the Shijaiya neighborhood.

“The grant allowed me to rent my uncle’s store and start working and get some needed raw materials for the job, like sugar and other goods. Thanks to God, my three-member family and I can eat now. Also, I have been able to repay all my debts,” Ahmad made clear to Citizen Truth.

Female Amputees Participate as Well

Female amputees have also benefited from the ICRC-funded projects. Among those beneficiaries is Noura Alzer from the Wadi Alsalqa rural area in southern Gaza Strip.

Noura is a graduate of education and mother of one little daughter. With the help of a $2,500 grant, she has been teaching school children from Wadi Alsalqa several subjects including Arabic, English and Math.

Noura Alzer inside her education center where she teaches children. (Photo: Rami Almeghari)

Noura Alzer inside her education center where she teaches children. (Photo: Rami Almeghari)

Back in 2008-2009, when the Israeli army carried out an all-out attack on Gaza, the 28-year-old had her left leg amputated after an Israeli missile landed on a neighbor’s home in the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

The fund enabled her to open a small education center. In September 2018, Noura used the grant to convert a room of her home into the privately-owned teaching space.

“This project has positively affected me and my family. It has brought us some kind of income,” Noura told Citizen Truth. “Now, I have a total of 25 pupils, who learn at my center.”

As Israeli Strikes Continue, Red Cross Struggles to Keep up With Rehabilitation Needs

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza told Citizen Truth that its micro-grants are aimed at boosting social inclusion and creating decent jobs for those who were permanently injured from the frequent Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.

“The idea is basically is to work with relevant departments like health and physical rehabilitation and to get referrals from them. So, after those people have been already treated and rehabilitated, we in the economic security department come as a social inclusion component and make sure that those people come back to life,” said Fanny Busutil, head of the ICRC’s Economic Security Department in Gaza.

From 2008 to 2014, the Israeli army carried out three major military attacks on the Gaza Strip, injuring thousands of men, women and children. In the 2014 attack alone, Human Rights Watch counted 11,000 Palestinians wounded and 2,100 killed.

Over the past year, Israeli snipers have opened fire on Gaza border demonstrators taking part in what Palestinians call their Great March of Return. Health officials in Gaza have recorded about 130 cases of amputation, most of which performed on young men.

“The injuries of lower and higher limbs of bodies received so far by local hospitals show arteries were severed, bones fractured and flesh melted,” Dr. Ashraf Alqedra, spokesperson for the Gaza-based health ministry, told Citizen Truth.

According to the ministry, the Israeli army has killed more than 260 Palestinian demonstrators, journalists and medics, during the past year of border protests. Alqedra estimated the wounded at about 30,000, many thousands of them by live bullets.

The ICRC-provided financial grants have so far reached only 400 out of a total of 1600 amputees. The ICRC told Citizen Truth that it’s current grants program is set to end this year, unless the Red Cross gets additional funding.

“After I have begun teaching these kids with the help of the ICRC, I feel much better, as I do something good and help my own family,” Noura Alzer told Citizen Truth.

Rami Almeghari

Rami Almeghari is a freelance independent writer, journalist and lecturer, based in the Gaza Strip. Rami has contributed in English to several media outlets worldwide, including print, radio and TV. He can be reached on facebook as Rami Munir Almeghari and on email as [email protected]

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