Human Rights Watch Warns that Life in Gaza is 'extraordinarily difficult' for disabled

Human Rights Watch has warned that people with disabilities can face an "extraordinarily difficult" life in the Gaza Strip due to the Israeli blockade and lack of assistance from Islamist rulers Hamas.

According to the organization, two million Palestinians live in the poverty and conflict-plagued enclave wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. 

HRW said the 2007 blockade Israel imposed on the territory following Hamas's rise to power had "robbed people with disabilities in Gaza of their freedom of movement".

Speaking to AFP, Emina Cerimovic, senior researcher in HRW's disability rights division said Israeli control of Gaza's eastern border had also impaired "access to the devices, electricity, and technology they need to communicate or leave their homes."

She said Israel limits the entry into Gaza of goods that could be used for military purposes and controls the flow of fuel needed to power the enclave's sole electricity plant.

The HRW report noted the impact of recurring power cuts on people with disabilities who need light to communicate through sign language, or electric lifts or scooters to get around. 

Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, has failed to provide sufficient ramps or lifts in many buildings in the enclave, according to the report.

"Israel's policies, alongside the failure of Hamas authorities to address the lack of accessibility across Gaza and widespread stigma, contribute to making life in Gaza extraordinarily difficult for many people with disabilities," the report said.

Margaret Njugunah