Gaza's mothers suffer in silence for disabled children

Gaza's mothers suffer in silence for disabled children
Blog: Thousands of Gazan children have been permanently disabled by Israeli aggression. Their mothers, and fathers, are left to cope at the expense of their own health.
3 min read
18 Feb, 2015
Thousands of children were injured in Israel's latest war [AFP/Getty]

She sits on a bench of patients waiting to see a foreign doctor in Gaza to treat difficult cases. But her look suggests she came here against her will.

She would not have come had her husband not booked the appointment without her knowledge, she says. And she knows what the doctor will tell her - that she needed surgery or risks permanent paralysis. 

She gulps before she continues: "I don't care what happens to me. I am caring for my eldest son. He lost his legs in the assault in 2012. Now I sleep in his room. He calls me whenever he needs me and I help him in everything, no matter how small. I cannot leave him for a moment.

"In the most recent aggression, my other son, a seven-year-old, lost a hand and a foot. Now I have two disabled children who need constant care. They can't stop calling for their mum.

"Their father goes to work at dawn and returns exhausted in the evening. I would feel bad getting him to look after them at night, so I became more ill.

     I cannot have surgery. It would mean I have to spend several months in bed.
- mother of disabled children.

"And so I cannot have surgery. It would mean I have to stay in hospital and then spend several months in bed."

Helpless in Gaza

It's hard to find words of comfort that could sooth her and many like her here in Gaza.

The 2014 Israeli assault on the enclave killed nearly 500 children but 3,000 others were wounded, and 2,500 of those were left with permanent disabilities.

This also means that a similar number of parents have become permanently bound to their children. These women's health suffers as a result of overwork and constant stress of looking after their children with no professional help.

According to the latest figures, there are about 10,500 disabled people in Gaza, many of whom were injured in Israeli attacks.

Several years ago, I had met another woman in a vegetable market in Jabalya. She was on edge, telling a stall-owner: "Hurry up, I have to go back to my girls at home."

I would estimated that that woman was in her 70s. When she left, the stall-owner said: "That poor old woman. She has cancer and she has four mentally and physically disabled daughters, the youngest in her 20s and the eldest in her 40s.

"She looks after them by herself. She comes here and buys what she needs quickly, because if she left them alone for too long they might hurt each other or themselves."

My grandmother once told me that having a sick person at home makes all members of the household sick. She was right, especially when it comes to mothers.

Mothers are sick with worry when their children become ill for a few days, so one can only imagine what they go through if their children are in wheelchairs all their lives.

Ater the death of her son, who had been paralysed for years, my grandmother told me: "The last word he said to me was 'debts' - the debts he feared we had accumalated looking after him. He was sure he was going to leave them grieving, and worried about paying back all the debt."

This is an edited translation of the original Arabic.