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Gaza tailors adapt to wartime needs, making nappies instead of bridal gowns

February 19, 2024 at 4:59 pm

Palestinian women produce nappies from cotton and fabric in her workshop in Rafah of Gaza on February 16, 2024 [Jehad Alshrafi – Anadolu Agency]

Two stylised images of women wearing glamorous wedding dresses adorn the front of a tailoring workshop in Rafah, but the workers inside have switched to making baby’s nappies, one of the many necessities that have become impossible to find in wartime Gaza.

With most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people displaced by Israel’s military offensive, more than half of them crammed into the Rafah area near the border with Egypt, a shortage of nappies is making life a misery for babies and their parents.

“There are 1.5 million displaced people in Rafah city and there are no Pampers,” said Yasser Abu Gharara, owner of the tailoring workshop now making nappies. He said the shortage had pushed up the price of a single packet at the market to about 200 shekels ($55), an exorbitant price for families also struggling to get hold of enough food.

“If the banks were open, you would need to get a loan to buy Pampers,” he said, standing in the workshop as a row of women used sewing machines to produce some imitations of the generic brand name used for nappies in Gaza.

Abu Gharara said that they were using recycled protective clothing dating back to the Covid-19 pandemic as material to make the nappies. He hopes that the items will help families enduring gruelling conditions.

“We are not only talking about nappies for babies, but also for the elderly and people with disabilities,” he added.

For displaced people living in tent camps, the dearth of nappies has been making the daily struggle to keep babies and toddlers clean and dry much worse.

Displaced mother Inas Al-Masry, who has twins as well as an older daughter who all need nappies, was using what looked like a tiny pair of shorts fashioned out of the transparent pink plastic of a grocery bag to protect one of her babies. The plastic shorts were too tight and the infant boy, lying on the ground inside a tent, cried as Al-Masry pulled them up.

She said that she could not afford to buy nappies at 180 or 190 shekels per packet when her twins would get through a single packet in a week. “After that week, how will I get another packet?” she asked. “Even with the cover I’m putting on the baby, I need to change it all the next day. They all need clothes, but clothes are not available, blankets are not available for children. We don’t have anything available. We don’t even have mattresses, we are dumped in tents on the street.”

Hany Subh is a displaced father. He said that he was looking for nappies in the market every day, but the prices are too high. “Tell me, should we eat or buy Pampers?” he said.

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