GAZA CITY — Mohammed Dawoud, a Palestinian man, said he struggles to care and provide for his two brothers and other family members with cerebral palsy.
The family of six live in the Shejaiya neighborhood in Gaza, just two miles from the border with Israel.
Dawoud, 26, and his mother, 48-year-old Bothayna Dawoud, are the caretakers for his brothers, 29-year-old Haitham and 16-year-old Hamza.
Dawoud said they have great difficulty finding the funds for basic needs, let alone the medical costs of his brothers’ condition.
Cerebral palsy, which appears in early childhood, is a brain injury or malformation that affects muscle control and coordination.
“My brothers need medical examinations, health care and physical therapy constantly,” Dawoud said. “Here there are no schools ready for my brothers. They are always at home. No education, no care, no financial or moral support here. Only me and my mother take care of my brothers.”
He said his brothers need calcium, protein supplements and medicine that often aren’t available in Gaza.
“The medicine here is very old,” Dawoud said. “The medicine is bad.”
He also said his brothers struggle to walk even short distances.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported about 30 percent of children with CP cannot walk at all.
Dawoud said that physical therapy and massage have helped his brothers’ joint pain and improved their movement abilities. However, the therapy center he used to bring them to has grown too expensive.
He added that he takes Haitham and Hamza to parks filled with trees for their mental health.
Dawoud works at a restaurant in Gaza, but it reduced the number of days he’s scheduled to work from six days a week to just two.
“A lot of workers and not a lot of customers,” he said.
He added that his father, 45-year-old Hesham Dawoud, had to stop working as a taxi driver four years ago due to rheumatoid arthritis. Dawoud said the old taxi cab is now unusable.
“There is nothing free, even for the disabled, so I had to make a donation campaign” he said. “Even natural man cannot live in Gaza. Imagine how disabled people live.”
He said he’s always looking for a better job in all areas, but it seems almost impossible.
“The number of the unemployed is very large,” he said.
The World Bank group reported the unemployment rate in Gaza at 44 percent in 2017.
In July 2014 the Israel Defense Forces claimed Shejaiya was a “terrorist fortress” and attacked the neighborhood.
The United Nations reported that more than 70 Palestinians, including 55 women and children, were killed with at least 288 wounded as a result of the IDF’s action.
Dawoud said the family home was damaged in the battle.
“We received several text messages on the phone from the Israeli army telling us to leave the border immediately,” he said. “Hamas told us to stay in our homes and we will protect you. That was a disappointment. We left at the last moment.”
The Dawoud family took shelter at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency camp about five miles from the border for 35 days. The UNRWA reported overflowing shelter facilities.
“Lots of people were there,” Dawoud said. “Fortunately the house we lived in was not completely destroyed; we now live in the same old house.”
He said their one-bedroom home’s roof is made of cement and metal.
“We have a 1,500 liter water tank a friend from London donated to us,” he said. “Our quality of life is very low.”
Dawoud said he hopes to someday bring his brothers to the U.S. to be treated.
“I hope to find someone or a charity so maybe I can rent a better home,” he said. “Migration to a good country is the best solution, but this is very difficult.”
The Dawoud family accepts donations at PayPal.me/dawoudfamily.
Mohammed Dawoud can be contacted at Dawoudm29@gmail.com.