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Gaza driving on cooking oil

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Gaza Diary: Driving on cooking oil

By Omar, a humanitarian worker, in partnership with Oxfam Gaza now smells of falafel.

The people here are transferring their used cooking oil into their cars to be used as fuel.

With the fuel shortage continuing due to the Israeli blockade, donkeys now have the word ‘taxi’ written on their behinds.

It is as if we have gone back to the Stone Age.

Nevertheless, I missed my niece’s wedding because no donkey could carry me fast enough to arrive on time for the ceremony. I was upset that I missed an event so important for her.

Fuel and electricity cuts have forced me to collect rubbish from the streets; I burn it to cook my food.

I try to avoid plastics because the fumes are dangerous and they smell terrible. The type of food we buy now is that which cooks quickly. If not, you need enormous quantities of rubbish just to cook a decent meal. And there is a lot of rubbish on the streets of Gaza because the fuel shortages have forced the garbage collection trucks off the streets.

For the last five days we have only been eating rice as it takes little time to cook. It has replaced the primary staple of our usual meal – bread. Bakeries have closed down; without flour, wheat or gas for ovens, bakers have no choice.

Repeated incursions

There have been repeated incursions in Gaza, rockets being fired and helicopters constantly swarming overhead.

Four children and their mother became the latest victims of the violence. They were eating breakfast one morning last week when they were killed. I think to myself, what had this mother or her children ever done to be victims of this on-going violence? Surely, every child everywhere deserves to live in peace.

The Israeli government apologised for this but what does this mean when you are the husband and father who have lost your entire family?

My children are studying for their exams as they are coming up in the next few weeks. They are keen to do well and I took the last three days off to help them prepare. They were reprimanded the other day for not doing all of their homework. As this is unusual for them their teacher called me and asked ‘is everything OK?’

I explained that their study time is quite limited; we have no light when night falls. No electricity, no candles, no gas for our lamp. I burn cartons from the street for a while in the evening so that the children have some light but this does not last long.

I use the light from my mobile phone, which I charge in the office during the day to get around at night. My child asked for a glass of water in the early hours one recent morning. Mobile in hand, I went to get it only to fall and smash the glass on my way up.

Getting a passport We went to the Ministry of Interior on one of my days off to obtain a passport for our youngest child. Although we are blockaded, some people have managed to get out for treatment, others have been denied. But at least with a passport you have the chance of leaving.

If our daughter falls ill and needs specialised treatment and could not seek it outside of Gaza where it is no longer available, she would fall gravely ill or even die.

We paid the fees and got the photos taken but when I went to submit the application they turned me away because Gaza had run out of paper to print passport documentation.

But, I still consider myself fortunate in comparison to so many other people in Gaza.

Meeting Hamyd, a 36-year-old man in a refugee camp in Rafah the other day, reinforced this.

One bedroom

Hamyd has seven children and the entire family sleep in one bedroom. The walls are made of clay and asbestos. What Hamyd once thought was temporary accommodation has been his home for almost all his life and his children have only ever known this existence.

There is no fuel to operate the local well. Electricity cuts have meant that water is pumped only on for one day during the week. The World Health Organisation states that each person requires a minimum of 15 litres of water per person daily. Hamyd’s family of nine people have 110 litres for an entire week.

Hamyd can no longer work because he is severely depressed – a result of living in Gaza.

His family is among the 650,000 people in Gaza who receive food from the United Nations Relief and Work Agency but even they had to temporarily suspend operations last week – and then again early this week – because of fuel cuts.

If the disruptions continue, how will people like Hamyd and his family survive?

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