AL ATTATRA TENT CAMP | GAZA
Manal's photo was taken by OCHA, June 2009.
The background photo was taken by JCTordai, April 2009.
We met Manal in a tent camp, in 2009, a few months after the "Cast Lead" offensive. She was 35 years old back then.
A year before, she still lived in a large house with many rooms and modern conveniences.
During the hostilities, she left her home after leaflets were dropped by the Israeli military warning people to leave the area.
The family took no possessions from
their home except white flags that they waved as they walked to an UNWRA school to seek refuge. At the time, the family expected to return home shortly.
Once at the school, she had to use flip chart paper that she found in a classroom as makeshift blankets to cover her children:
❝I had nothing for my daughter, who was five months at the time,❞ she told us, ❝and I could not keep her warm.❞ The following day, food and blankets were distributed.
She heard stories of widespread damage to houses in her community, and she gradually gave up hope of returning to a house that was still standing: ❝We are grateful to UNWRA for providing us with food and water, but the conditions were very cramped and it was not home. We just yearned for home.❞
As soon as military forces had left the area, the family returned to their home to find that it had been flattened to the ground by rubble from a neighbouring apartment building that had been directly hit by an Israeli military strike. The blacksmith business of Manal's husband was completely destroyed.
She then took her children to stay at her sister’s house. She registered with the local authorities and, two weeks after the ceasefire agreement, was told that she had been allocated a tent in the new tent camp in Al Attatra, several kilometres from her home.
Restrictions on the import of goods, including basic construction materials, imposed by Israel as part of its blockade, have complicated, delayed and, in some cases prevented reconstruction and repair of destroyed or severely damaged homes.
In other cases, where goods are available, families lack the financial resources to purchase them due to the poor economic situation in Gaza caused largely by the years-long blockade.
The family received financial assistance from UNWRA and the local authorities, and continued to reside in the tent camp, in very difficult conditions:
❝The first tent leaked and it was very cold, it was later replaced with a better tent, but it gets very hot and is full of flies.❞
The camp had temporary, pre-fabricated
bathrooms, one for women and one for men, and water supply was sporadic.
For a while, her nine-year-old son continued attending the same school, but the distance proved a challenge. Manal told us that he also suffered from bedwetting and exhibited other psychological problems. His school work suffered, his grades were lower and he was disconnected from his friends.
When we talked to Manal, she no longer saw her friends and neighbours. Her social network and support system had broken
down and she believed that she no longer had an existence.
❝My day starts with me hoping it will finish. I am worried and I don’t know what the future will bring.❞
She and her family were on the UNRWA shelter caseload list to have their house rebuilt. However, due to the ongoing blockade of construction materials, there had been no reconstruction by the time we met.