“We Palestinians always say to the world: leave no one behind. But in Gaza, we have been left behind”

The seventh blog in our ‘Voices from Gaza’ series comes from Haitham Saqqa, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)’s Community Programme Officer, who talks about his life before Israel's military assault on Gaza began in October, and some of the most difficult challenges he’s faced in the past eight months.

Every Friday, my wife, my children and I used to sit together in our garden. I have a daughter, called Lor, and twins: a daughter and a son called Nahed and Nei. During this war, we celebrated Lor’s sixth birthday, and Nahed and Nei’s second birthday. On 6 October last year, we were sitting together with my extended family in our garden having lunch. We had a barbeque that day.

The next day, we had planned to go to the beach. Every Saturday, we try to take the kids there. We play together, take our sandwiches and spend the day there. But that morning, on 7 October, we woke up to loud noises and explosions – we stayed at home and were glued to the news to see what was happening. 

Just five days later, Israeli forces started closing in on our area. It came to the point where we were sheltering people in our home who were displaced, there were almost 100 people staying there. Then, suddenly, we were displaced in other people’s homes. For the first time, me and my family were forced to leave our home against our will.  

I am now staying with my in-laws, in al-Mawasi, in western Rafah. It’s in an area that Israel has claimed is a ‘safe zone’. However, airstrikes have hit tents near us, and killed and injured Palestinians. In this house, there are around 55 other people sheltering, that’s eight families.  

Everyone in Gaza is living in constant fear and stress from the sounds of planes and the drones that never leave, and the sounds of explosions all around us. My children are always scared, and I fear for them all the time – but I never really know what to do or say to them.  

Two months into the war, around late December, I was struggling to find milk and food for my children. It was hard for me to see them develop signs of anaemia and to see their faces become pale. I was stuck and did not know what to feed my children, especially my two-year-old twins. 

I had to call everyone I knew to try to find any milk, even strangers I saw walking on the streets. Even when it became available, it was too little and too expensive – costing as much as 80NIS (£16) at times, instead of 10NIS (£2) before the war. It was a daily crisis. 

We still often struggle to find cooking gas, so we are forced to resort to buying wood to make fires so that we can cook. We try our best to keep a regular supply of food, especially for the children. The last time we felt real joy was when it was the kids’ birthdays in December. We baked a little cake over the fire, and we found some birthday candles to light. We laughed and smiled.   

“I wish that there was no more death around us” 

Our home, my father’s home, and my grandparent’s home have all been almost completely destroyed by repeated Israeli military airstrikes. Even the stones which we could take as a memory are no longer visible. It’s as if the ground has swallowed them up.  

People who know me well know that I love to watch football. My two favourite teams are Liverpool and Al Ahly, an Egyptian team. For eight months, I haven’t been able to follow any news of what is going on in the leagues. I also used to play football twice a week, but I can no longer do this. One of my teammates was killed. Sport was a big part of my life; it was a way for me to relieve stress. Where can I put all my stress now?  

When I managed to go back to my home before an Israeli rocket hit, I picked up some clothes that were left. My Al-Ahly team shirt was torn, and my Liverpool scarf and flag were torn and burnt on the floor. These were my prized possessions which brought me a lot of joy. I would wear them all the time.   

One of my worst experiences through the war was when I developed hepatitis and suffered from it for three weeks. I went to the hospital and received no clinical check-up or diagnosis, only a diclofenac injection – a type of treatment used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. I felt exhausted while there, and I just thought of people who suffer from injuries or from diseases more serious than hepatitis.  

I met one of my neighbours in the hospital who had early-stage gangrene, which had affected his finger. Doctors decided to amputate it. “All they could give me was a diclofenac injection. How would they deal with him,” I wondered to myself at the time. Three days later, my neighbour’s son told me he would undergo another procedure of amputation. Two days ago, I recovered from my hepatitis and contacted my neighbour’s son to check on his father again. He told me he would yet again undergo an amputation procedure, this time of his entire leg.  

This rapid aggravation of my neighbour’s health makes me think of three serious issues: To what extent are infection control measures followed in hospitals? Are they actually effective? Even if they are, what about the wastewater widespread on the streets? We are facing a public health catastrophe which will deeply impact people’s health and recovery prospects.  

Another issue I have faced is regarding my faith in what I do. I am a person with a disability, I believe in the rights of people with disabilities, and promote this belief through education and training. However, I now decline offers to speak to media or other organisations, not because I do not believe in my cause but because I feel words are empty. 

Between January and March, there were no wheelchairs in Gaza. No one knows how the stocked wheelchairs were distributed, and people were using any available wheelchairs to transport water. This lack of wheelchairs made many people with disabilities unable to move around, so it was hard for organisations like MAP to assess their humanitarian needs or make any available services accessible to them. Even if wheelchairs were available, the scale of Israeli military violence has caused so much destruction that the streets are almost impossible to navigate on a wheelchair. 

I wish that there was no more death around us. I don’t want there to be a pause in the bombing, and then another war in two years. This has to end. I want my children to finish their education. But it is difficult to wish for these things when you don’t know what will happen tomorrow.

In this blog I wanted to be able to share things that were easier. But I don’t want to lie to you – things are difficult. We Palestinians always say to the world: leave no one behind. But here in Gaza, we see that it doesn’t apply to us; we have been left behind. People across the world are moving on with their lives, they are not seeing us, and not seeing how bad life has become here. The world needs to put a stop to what is happening to us here in Gaza.  

MAP’s team in Gaza were among the first to respond to the current emergency and remain one of the only international organisations working to provide humanitarian and medical services, including in the north. Please support our emergency response today. 


Photo: Haitham Saqqa in Gaza.

This is the seventh of our ’Voices from Gaza’ blog series where we hear from members of MAP’s team in Gaza. You can read the rest of the blogs in the series here.

Stay updated – join our mailing list

* indicates required
Your Interests