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Hamza helps his family avoid disaster

Explosive weapons
Palestine

Following the 2014 conflict in Gaza, thousands of unexploded bombs and other ordnance (UXO) lay hidden under rubble and inside damaged buildings. Despite clearance efforts, Gaza is still contaminated by 4,500 items which pose a serious threat to civilians, many of whom do not realise that the bombs can still explode. To prevent injuries and deaths, Handicap International teams travel throughout Gaza educating residents - like Hamza - about what to do when they find potentially dangerous objects.

After taking part in an aexplosive weapons risk education session Hamza immediatey warned his family about the dangers at home. Gaza.

After taking part in an aexplosive weapons risk education session Hamza immediatey warned his family about the dangers at home. 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. Hamza and his family narrowly avoided disaster after their home was bombed in the recent crisis.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. My 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 very worried that it might explode. But his father told him, “It’s ok, these things are safe.”

Mohammed Saleh, our 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.”

Date published: 03/07/15

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