"'In Gaza, all dreams and hope have gone'; Ameera Ahmad, 25, gave birth to daughter Layan six months ago. Here, she tells of life under siege and of her struggle to bring up a child after 18 months of Israeli blockade
The Observer, Sunday 21 December 2008
During the months of the blockade, everything in my life has changed. Before, I would wake up and hope that tomorrow would be better than today. But it never happened. The reason is simple. It is because I live in Gaza, where all dreams and hope vanish because of the situation we live in.
Even the most basic things are really hard to find. My daughter, Layan, is six months old. Things are so tough here that even when I needed to buy baby formula for her, I can't find it. All the money that my husband Fady and I had saved up we have spent during the last three months. I never imagined that my children would grow up like this, in this awful predicament. Poor and always threatened.
My husband is a television cameraman and sound man. But he has not received any salary during the last three months. The problem is that he works for a Palestinian company, but because this company is Palestinian there is very little work, and even then he has to wait until they decide they can afford to pay him. He can't even get insurance for his life because his work here is dangerous, covering the internal fighting or Israeli incursions.
Everything here that you need to survive is hard to find. There can be no electricity for hours and hours. Some days we only have power for six hours a day. Recently we had a period when we had no power at all for two whole days.
Another big challenge is getting gas for cooking. We are still unable to find bottled gas at the moment, which means I can't boil the water to prepare Layan's milk. You can get it in Gaza sometimes, but it costs a lot of money because it is smuggled through the tunnels from Egypt. In fact, the tunnels from Egypt control and define our whole lives. There are a lot of them. It is how the flour that I buy comes into Gaza.
But everything that comes under the border that way comes at a really high price. Before we had to rely on the tunnels and goods were still coming through from Israel - before Israel's economic blockade - one bottle of water cost just one shekel. Now it costs more than five shekels. In fact, these tunnels increase our suffering. The Hamas government even taxes the owners of these tunnels.
And there are other things I just cannot find. Bread is a really big problem at the moment and sometimes we go for days on end without having any bread. And meat is an even bigger problem. It is so expensive. Recently there have been times when we have gone without meat for long periods because of the cost and because what money my husband does receive, when he gets it, is needed for the most important things of all - like finding baby formula for Layan.
I used to work as well, as a translator here in Gaza. But because of the siege and the difficult conditions I haven't had the chance to work for many months.
It is strange. When you walk around Gaza and talk to people in the streets you think that people look happy and normal, getting on with their lives. It is only when you look into their eyes that you see the fear.
Before Layan was born, my husband and I used to talk a lot about whether we should try to leave. Whether it would be better if she was not born here. We still think about leaving Gaza, but we can't get out because of the siege.
The Israelis only let out some people who are really ill and a few people with special passes. The rest of us are trapped. Even then, it is hard to find someone to offer you an invitation from outside which might make it possible to leave.