Poverty-stricken families unable to secure basic needs

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20 October 2020

Tahsin is a 28-year-old college graduate who works in a coffee shop in Gaza. He is the sole breadwinner in his family of nine members who live in a rented apartment. He spoke to Al Mezan about his struggle during the imposed lockdown:
“I live with my family in a rented apartment in a building in Asqoula, east of Gaza City. I have a diploma in Nursing from the University College of Applied Science but never had a stable job as a nurse. I work as a waiter in a coffee shop in Gaza City. My father had been working as a nurse at al-Shifa Hospital but was referred to ‘financial’ retirement two years ago and did not qualify for a retirement salary as he was on temporary employment contract. Since then, we struggled to pay our rent which put us in conflicts with the landlord, especially that we have nowhere else to go. I became the only provider for my parents and brothers. My small income could barely secure food for my family. One of my brothers suffers a disability in his leg since birth. He can’t walk and he is in a constant need of treatment and injections.
On 24 August 2020, and while I was at my work in the coffee shop, a number of police officers came in and said they have orders to close all the cafeterias and shops due to the spread of Covid-19 in the Gaza Strip. Accordingly, we were asked to stay at our homes until a further notice. In the beginning, I thought that this situation would not last more than a couple of days, but when I realized that the lockdown will continue, I started losing my mind. I became worried about how I’ll be able to secure my family’s basic needs without an income. After three days, I borrowed some money from the coffee shop’s owner and spent it all on basic needs. Now, I have nothing left. We have been living without electricity for two weeks as I cannot afford to recharge the prepaid electricity meter. We also can’t afford cooking gas. As an alternative, my brothers light fire outside the apartment or in the kitchen for cooking. The landlord warned us many times that he would contact the police to evict us. I heard that some institutions distribute aids to daily-wage laborers, but I did not receive anything, not even a food parcel. We are an educated family; all my family members are college graduates and, with the exception of my disabled brother, all have the ability to work but none of us has a stable job”.