The blockade of Israel imposed on the enclave in 2007 has “deprived people with disabilities in Gaza of their freedom of movement,” says HRW.
People with disabilities may face “extremely difficult” lives in Gaza because of the Israeli blockade and lack of support from Hamas, which rules the enclave, according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Two million Palestinians live in the poverty and conflict-ridden enclave between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean.
In a report released on Thursday, International Day of People with Disabilities, HRW said the blockade Israel placed on the territory in 2007 following the rise of Hamas to power “deprived people with disabilities of their freedom of movement in Gaza.”
According to official statistics from the Palestinian Census Office, about 48,000 people in Gaza, or about 2.4 percent of the population, are disabled. More than a fifth are children.
Some people have been disabled due to violent injuries by the Israeli authorities, the report said.
Emina Cerimovic, senior researcher in HRW’s disability rights division, said Israeli control of Gaza’s eastern border has also “impacted access to the devices, electricity and technology they need to communicate or leave their homes.”
Israel limits the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip that could be used for military purposes and controls the flow of fuel required to power the enclave’s only power station.
The report identified the impact of recurring blackouts on people with disabilities who need light to communicate using sign language, or on electric elevators or scooters to get around.
I feel less like a person
A 26-year-old woman with a physical disability was quoted in the report as saying that she had to cancel trips because she could not charge her mobility scooter.
“Power shortages control my life,” she said. “I feel more aware of my disability.”
The report added that Hamas, which has waged three wars with Israel since 2008, has not provided adequate ramps or elevators in many buildings in the enclave.
“Israel’s policies, along with the Hamas authorities’ failure to address inaccessibility across the Gaza Strip and widespread stigma, make life in Gaza extremely difficult for many people with disabilities,” the report said.
The report quoted three women with hearing impairment who said that public hospitals do not offer sign language services.
“Whenever I go to a hospital without someone to interpret for me, they write on a piece of paper that I should come back and bring someone with me,” said one of the women. “This experience made me feel less like a person.”