Improved Accessibility for People with Disabilities in Gaza
“I can now use the bathroom without help. The ramp also makes it much easier for me to enter and leave the house.”
–Ismail Abu Heish, disabled father of seven
Ismail Abu Heish* lives with his wife, Haniah,* and their seven children in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost governorate bordering Egypt. He suffers from a chronic disease and as a result is physically disabled. The family depends on cash assistance from the Ministry of Social Development and on food aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which covers their most basic needs.
Like the more than 24,000 families in Gaza who are living in severely deteriorated shelters, the family were living in a house made of metal sheeting and sleeping in one room without locks. They had to use an outdoor kitchen and bathroom. Due to the poor housing conditions, Ismail was very concerned about the safety of his wife and daughters, and the house was inaccessible to him as he relies on his wheelchair to move around.
In 2018, Ismail’s family was selected to receive assistance through the Shelter Upgrades for Substandard Housing in Gaza project, funded by the Government of Canada. With support from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Catholic Relief Services and our local partner, the Bayader for Environment & Development Association, the family made critical improvements to enhance their home. CRS supported them to improve the shelter by adding concrete walls, a new room and an indoor bathroom and kitchen. To increase access and mobility, the family tiled the floors, installed a ramp at the front door and handholds in the bathroom.
Ismail can now enter and leave the house and move around easily, giving him greater independence.
Protection Mainstreaming and Gender Equity
As part of the CRS gender and protection strategy, staff meet with beneficiaries before any construction begins, to explain the upgrade process and emphasize the importance of shared decision-making by all family members—especially those who spend most of their time at home. This ensures that improvements reflect the unique needs of individual household members—particularly women, girls, the elderly and people with disabilities. Families are also given the option of a home-based orientation so that people with disabilities like Ismail can fully participate.
Haniah says, “I was able to talk freely and comfortably about my needs with the female staff. I participated in the orientation session with my husband.”
In addition to increasing the family’s privacy and the safety of Ismail’s wife and daughters, the addition of the kitchen area helped improved hygiene in the house. Haniah says, “The space I previously had wasn’t adequate. Now, I have a clean kitchen and the house is better sealed so that insects and dirt can’t enter.”
*Names have been changed to protect identities.