Hamza helps his family avoid disaster
On April 8th 2015, Hamza Al-Sisawi attended the Mine Action Day celebrations at UNRWA’s Khan Younis Training Centre in Gaza. He was particularly happy to be there – he and his family narrowly avoided disaster after their home was contaminated by unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the recent crisis.
Hamza attends the Mine Action Day celebrations at UNRWA’s Khan Younis Training Centre in Gaza | © TOM SHELTON / HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL
20-year-old Hamza is from Shejaiya, an area of Gaza that was devastated during the fighting in the summer of 2014. He tells us what happened: « We were living in our house but when the shelling got bad we escaped to a hospital. During a ceasefire, we returned to check the situation at home and collect some important papers. But then the bombing started again and we went to take shelter at a friend’s house. »
"When we got back to our home, we found the whole building was badly damaged. Everything was destroyed. When my mother saw the state of the house she fell into shock and became unresponsive. She was taken to hospital for two days where they gave her psychological support – thankfully she recovered."
After two days there was another ceasefire. His younger brother went back home and found a lot of UXO (unexploded ordnance) inside the house. He collected it all together and stored it in the bathroom. Then he came back to take shelter again.
After the war finished, Hamza returned to the family home with his father and brother. He saw all the UXO that his 15-year-old brother had collected and was worried that it might explode. But his father told him, "It’s ok, these things are safe."
Buildings in Shejaiya, Gaza, an area largely destroyed during Operation Protective Edge in Summer 2014.
© Tom Shelton / Handicap International
Mohammed Saleh, Risk Education Team Leader tells us what happened next: "Handicap International’s risk education team met Hamza in a focus group and told him about UXO and how dangerous it is. We also provided him with a leaflet about the risks. He took it to his mother and father and explained the dangers he had learnt about in the group."
Hamza explains: « My father took this very seriously and explained to my brother how dangerous it was to keep these items inside the house. He showed him more pictures using the internet about unexploded weapons and what they can do to people. By this time, my brother had become sick in his leg. I think it was because of the UXO. After that, we called the police to come and clear it. »
The family had avoided what could have been a catastrophic accident. But Hamza had already been injured during the previous conflict in 2012.
"I had left-side hemiplegia and a head injury so I received rehabilitation. Now my health is ok, but I still have two pieces of shrapnel in my brain. In the summer I get headaches because of this. I need surgery but I would have to be referred outside for that."
He decided to take action himself
Having overcome the odds, Hamza was inspired to take action himself: "I decided to study rehabilitation, for me and for the people. I am now studying Community-Based Rehabilitation at the university."
Hamza is one of around one thousand people affected by the crisis in Gaza who were invited to take part in the Mine Action Day activities to raise awareness about the impact of unexploded ordnance and the needs of the victims.
« I am happy to be here today for Mine Action Day. People with disabilities have not always been included in events, and I am very happy because I feel that we are equal with all in this event. I hope every time we can do it like this and organize many activities in the future. »