Gaza's amputees empowered with small business grants

Gaza's amputees empowered with small business grants
Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have suffered debilitating injuries in a series of Israeli attacks in the past decades, reports Rami Almeghari.
4 min read
22 March, 2019
Teacher Noura Alzer had her left leg amputated after an Israeli missile landed nearby [TNA]
With the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross, 400 Palestinians from Gaza whose limbs have been amputated following Israeli army attacks, have found decent jobs that have enabled them and their families to get by and live more easily. 

Essam Ghannam is a 40-year-old father of four and has been an amputee since he was 14 years old. For the past year, he's also been the proud owner of a coffee shop in Gaza's seaport, a dream made possible with a $2,000 grant from the Red Cross.

"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.'"

Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have suffered debilitating injuries in a series of Israeli attacks in the past few decades. Essam's right leg was amputated after Israeli soldiers opened fire on a group of stone throwers in Rafah City during the first Palestinian uprising in 1987.

In the eastern Gaza neighbourhood of al-Shujaiea, 29-year-old Ahmad Abu Aasi has been running an ice-cream and beverage shop since 2016.

In the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza, Ahmad's legs were hit by shrapnel from an Israeli drone-fired missile. He was injured when he and others were rescuing wounded neighbours and now uses special equipment attached to his ankles.

A $3,000 Red Cross grant in 2016 provided the capital for Ahmad 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 The New Arab as he served coffee to wedding guests.

"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."

In the rural area of Wadi Alsalqa, in the southern Gaza Strip, Noura Alzer, an education graduate and a mother of one little daughter, teaches neighbourhood children English, Arabic and Maths.

The 28-year-old had her left leg amputated after an Israeli missile landed on a neighbour's home in the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip during the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009.

Her small education centre was funded by the International Committee of the Red Cross in September 2018. Noura's grant was $2,500 which she used 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," she said. "Now, I have a total of 25 pupils, who learn at my centre."

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza said its micro-grants were aimed at boosting social inclusion and providing employment for those who were permanently injured by Israeli attacks.   

"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.

In the past year, Israeli snipers have repeatedly opened fire on Gaza border demonstrators taking part in what Palestinians call their Great March of Return. Health officials in Gaza have recorded 114 amputations, most of them 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," said Dr Ashraf Alqedra, spokesperson for the Gaza-based health ministry.

According to the ministry, the Israeli army has killed 255 Palestinians - demonstrators, journalists and medics - during the past year of border protests. Alqedra estimated the wounded at more than 20,000.

The Red Cross grant programme has reached only a small percentage of those affected. And it is set to end this year, unless the Red Cross obtains additional funding.

"Since I have benefited from the Red Cross grant, I have realised that I am still alive," Essam Ghanem told The New Arab.

Rami Almeghari is a Palestinian freelance journalist living and working in Gaza. 

Follow him on Twitter: @writeralmeghari