Living under Israeli occupation, Palestinians face numerous difficulties in their daily lives. The health sector is among the most affected arenas as there are Palestinian casualties on a daily basis as a result of the continuous Israeli attacks on the one hand, and a shortage of resources on the other.
Since 2006, the Israeli occupation, supported by the international community, has imposed a strict siege against the Gaza Strip resulting in a sharp drop in the quality of medical services available; so much so that hundreds of types of medicine are unobtainable. The latest Israeli war against the enclave, dubbed 'Operation Cast Lead', has resulted in an increase in the number of amputee patients. The health sector that deals with this is already under-resourced and the casualties of the war have made the situation even more difficult to cope with. However, a Gaza rehabilitation centre has given some hope to victims.
"From the first moment of my new situation, I started to think how difficult life would be for me without both my legs," Salem Jomaa, 33, who lost his legs during the Israeli war on Gaza, said. "However, later on I found I could have artificial legs and could have a driving license and work as a taxi driver," he added.
Salem is not the only Gazan who has faced the trauma of losing their limbs; tens of Gazans have done the same, thanks to the efforts of Hazem al-Shawwa, the manager of the Centre for Artificial Legs in Gaza. "The centre offers services for disabled people who have lost parts of their limbs," Al-Shawwa said. "I started work before the Israeli war on Gaza, but the increased number of those who had their limbs amputated during the war attracted the attention of charities that started to support the centre."
The centre, according Al-Shawwa, has offered services to about 5,500 cases who suffered amputation before the war, and 220 cases resulting from the war. "There are still 54 cases resulting from the war on the waiting list," he said. "Our services contributed to the solution to the problems of the disabled who could not travel easily because of the siege."
"As soon as I got well after the incident, I wanted to get back to my normal life again," Ali, 26, said. "But because of the strict siege, I could not travel abroad. Then, my friends told me about the rehabilitation centre in Gaza where I could get an artificial leg." Speaking of the leg, Ali said that "It is OK", however he is still thinking of having a better one in the future.
As the war casualties drew attention to Al-Shawwa's centre, they offered help to increase its capacity. The centre was built on 550 square meters and now it has been extended to become of 1,450 square meters. "In an attempt to improve the work of the centre through the help of the charities, a number of specialists were delegated abroad to have related training and gain expertise," Al-Shawwa said.
"Thanks to the efforts of the Hazem al-Shawwa' centre, I can say that my brother, to some extent, could return to his normal life," Sarah, Salem's sister, said.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad