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100 days of chaos in Gaza: people with disabilities face acute challenges

Occupied Palestinian Territories

More than 400,000 people with disabilities are encountering tremendous challenges to survive the horrors in Gaza.

Recreational activities for children in a collective shelter in Gaza

Recreational activities for children in a collective shelter in Gaza | © HI

Since 7 October and the escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas, around 23,357 people have been killed and more than 59,410 injured in the relentless bombing of Gaza by Israeli forces (as of 11th of January). This Israeli offensive comes in the wake of a massive attack by Hamas on 7 October, in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and 240 Israelis and foreign nationals were taken hostage.

As we near the 100th day of violence in Gaza, Palestine Country Director Danila Zizi describes the situation for people with disabilities in Gaza:

What are the challenges faced by people with disabilities in Gaza as we reach the 100th day of the conflict?

In Gaza, the entire population is suffering, but 441.000 people with disabilities – 21% of the population – are encountering even more acute challenges.1 They struggle with basic necessities like safety, food, housing, and access to essential items for maintaining their health. Their dignity and human rights are directly threatened.

With more than 23,000 people killed and over 59,410 injured by bombing and shelling since Oct. 7, the number of persons with injuries that will lead to permanent impairment risks severely increasing. In addition, the situation of persons with chronic diseases who do not have access to medical care and the situation of older persons are, in this context, very concerning.

How are people with disabilities being affected specifically by the current violence and displacement?

Many are separated from their families, friends, and caregivers. Some cannot physically evacuate their homes, while others cannot process or access evacuation orders. Deaf individuals, for instance, cannot hear incoming rockets, putting them at risk. Many have lost assistive devices and medicines, leading to increased vulnerability.

Our teams recently assisted a child with cerebral palsy. The family had to leave their home hastily, leaving behind the child's medications and special equipment. As a result, the child has been suffering from painful muscle spasms.

How do people with disabilities access aid in Gaza amidst the challenges?

Persons with disabilities, like all the population living in Gaza, face difficulties accessing the limited aid available. The scarcity of hygiene items, adapted sanitary facilities, and nursing services is causing infections. We recently encountered a man who, after receiving a wheelchair, mentioned reducing food and drink consumption due to difficulty accessing shared toilets. Navigating war-torn roads in a wheelchair, walking without rest, and sheltering in inadequate conditions all pose significant risks. The use of heavy explosive weapons in Gaza, at an unprecedented intensity, exacerbates their predicament.

Even before the current escalation of the conflict, Gaza was dependent on humanitarian aid and on humanitarian truck deliveries from Israeli territory. Since Oct 7, the deliveries have been suspended and disrupted. The total amount of trucks that are going in Gaza are far from being sufficient to cover the massive humanitarian needs. In addition, trucks from private compagnies delivering basic supplies in Gaza are subjected to the same restrictions so that shops are empty and basic supplies cannot be found.

Was HI able to distribute people equipment and items?

HI has already distributed in the past two months almost all of the equipment and humanitarian aid items that were stored in its three emergency storage facilities in Gaza, assisting some 3,500 people.

After 21 days of waiting at the border, 8 trucks containing supplies for HI were able to enter the Gaza strip end of December. HI was able to supply 300 wheelchairs, 50 wheeled toilets, 250 crutches and 150 crutch tips to people with disabilities or injuries. A further 430 hygiene kits, 450 dignity kits and 150 toileting aids will be distributed to displaced families living in the emergency shelters.

Since October 7, the population of Gaza has been deprived of basic human services, including drinking water, food, electricity, telecommunications and fuel. The delivery of essential goods by humanitarian operators is vital, particularly for people with disabilities and injured civilians, who are denied the right to flee or have all their medical aid abandoned.

What is your major concern today as a humanitarian organisation?

HI continues to be alarmed by the very high number of civilian victims, the lack of safe humanitarian access and the limited number of trucks being able to enter the Gaza strip daily. Along with more than 800 organisations, HI is calling for an immediate ceasefire to put an end to the carnage and ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to the affected population.

About HI in Palestine

HI launched its first project in Palestine in 1996. For the last 27 years, our teams have been responding to the needs of the Palestinian community – both in West Bank and Gaza – across several sectors. HI Palestine is running projects in Disaster Preparedness and Risk Reduction, Physical and Functional Rehabilitation, Economic Inclusion and Economic Recovery, and Inclusive Education.

1. Source : Multisectoral Needs Assessment performed by REACH promoted by OCHA. HI participated in this assessment

Date published: 16/01/24


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