E.M, 43, recounts the details of his daily struggle as one of tens of thousands of daily-wage laborers in the Gaza Strip:
“I’m married and a father of six. My oldest son is 12, and my youngest is six months old. I suffer from a spinal disc herniation which requires surgical intervention.
As a daily-wage laborer, I’m severely affected by the spread of Covid-19 in the Gaza Strip. For years, I’ve been moving from one job to another which made it difficult for me to secure my family’s basic needs even before the lockdown. In certain periods, I worked for long hours trying to make money for my family. I traveled on foot delivering newspapers for hours on end to save money on transportation. My wage from that job did not exceed 20 Shekels per day. When done, I went home to rest for some time before going to any other job I had lined up that day; I would not miss work even if I was in pain. I also worked in construction and other manual labor that my friends could arrange. I had been waiting for the conditions to change for the better, for an opportunity of a permanent job or for an assistance to create a small project.
During the past years, and despite of my circumstances, I completed my studies and graduated with a diploma in business administration hoping that I would get the chance to work in a permanent job. I always believed that these hard times were temporary. At the beginning of 2020, I lost my job as a delivery person due to the bad economic conditions which resulted in declining demand on newspapers. Losing my job was the hardest thing I had to live through. I suddenly became unable to secure my family’s basic needs. To save my family and myself form living without an income, I thought of a plan B; I borrowed some money and I set up a street stand for selling mobile phones’ accessories. I was working from 9am until 8pm, and the money I made was very little (10-15 Shekels) a day, and sometime it was even less than that. I could barely buy food for my children from that money. With the beginning of the academic semester in August, I was contemplating selling stationary from my stand. Thank God I didn’t have enough money for that, otherwise my losses would have been greater as the Ministry of Interior imposed a full lockdown due to the spread of Covid-19 to the wider population in the Gaza Strip on 24 August 2020. I’ve not worked since that day. I spent the money I saved from the stand to pay debts, and I’m having a hard time securing my family’s basic needs. Now, I only depend on the money I borrow from my friends and neighbors. I wish this crisis would end soon as it severely impacted my family.”