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Lockdown shatters Gazans’ dream to escape poverty


Yusri, a 21-year-old street vendor and his family’s sole breadwinner, spoke to Al Mezan about the pandemic’s impact on his life:  


“I’m the oldest son and main breadwinner in a family of six, four of whom are children. It hasn’t always been like this; my father used to work for a water trucking vendor until he had to quit three years ago due to health complications following two back surgeries. Being the oldest son, I had to step in and prioritize looking for a job over going to college to provide for my family. So far, I have worked as a taxi driver, sold vegetables in a grocery store, and worked in a window-installation  shop. None of these jobs was well-paying. I barely made 20 shekels by the end of the day, which was not enough to cover my family’s needs.  


Almost two years ago, however, I started selling clothes from a street stand in Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. I sold undergarments, baby clothes and accessories, and was slowly gaining a good reputation and attracting customers. I was able to make around 40 to 70 shekels on a regular day and more than 150 in holiday seasons. The income was relatively sufficient; we lived on a budget but we didn’t have to borrow money from anyone. Personally, I’ve always focused on work mainly, and never needed much pocket money since I’m not a smoker, and I don’t go out often. All I ever aspired to is having my own store for clothes and accessories.


With strong enthusiasm and perseverance, I started saving up for my dream clothing store. I remember staying up for nights just planning and thinking about the interior design I’d pick, the marketing approach I should use, and how this project would secure a more decent life for my family. 


The lockdown and imposed curfew following the detection of the first coronavirus cases in Gaza hit me and everyone like a storm. The neighborhood I live in was designated as an endemic area so I have been confined to my home without any source of income. I initially thought it would only last for a few days, but it’s been three weeks so far, and my savings are almost depleted. I only have 400 shekels left out of the 2,800. If this crisis continues, I will most likely go into debt. My dream is out of reach now, and I might even lose my street stand to pay off any debts. It’s painful to see my only support system, my family, cut down on food like red meat and chicken to help me with expenses. I have no idea what would happen. This situation left me depressed and overthinking all the time.”

Tags / #life under lockdown