00:02 Matthias Jochmann
This is Record of Change, Episode 7.
My name is Matthias Jochmann, I am your host for this episode.
Record of Change listens to 8 individuals located across the globe on how the Covid19-pandemic has changed their lives.
In this episode we'll listen to Fidaa Shurrab from Gaza City.
Fidaa is the program and fundraising officer at Afaluna Society for Deaf Children and she will share with us how the
pandemic influenced her work and what restrictions people living in the Gaza Strip face, even without a pandemic.
Today, I am talking to you from Bonn, in Germany.
While many people here in Germany got very emotional about reduced traveling possibilities this summer, I was curious to hear a perspective from Gaza.
In case you don't know, the Gaza Strip is part of Palestine and finds itself under a full blockade since 2008.
The Gaza Strip is not only restricted in movement, but also in its resources, hence, both electricity and internet often drop.
But let's hear from Fidaa herself:
01:11 Fidaa Shurrab
I am Fidaa Shurrab from Palestine living in the Gaza strip.
Maybe Gaza City I work as a fundraising and project officer at Atfaluna society for deaf children.
Also, I'm a freelancer, interpreter, translator and writer with several magazines.
01:15 Matthias Jochmann
For those people who don't know what is at follow, not doing.
01:31 Fidaa Shurrab
Atfal una society for deaf children, serves, children, adults with and without disabilities in different, thematic areas.
it provides its services and intervention in a very comprehensive and holistic approach.
Children are being, enrolled in early intervention services, provided with hearing aids.
After the age of three they are in the kindergarten, after they finish the kindergarten, they are enrolled in
Atfaluna school, that has annually the amount of almost 200 students, deaf students from all over the Gaza strip.
We have also a vocational training and income generation program that supports the livelihood and economic empowerment of persons with,
and without disabilities; through employability skills and also job creation, and the local market and supporting also self-employment.
Protection and psychosocial support is one of the main problems that we provide here in Atfaluna for a children, adults, women, girls.
We also provide interventions such as speech therapy sessions for adults and children who have speech problems.
And we advocate throughout all the community to change the policies, to make the community at large inclusive for children.
02:54 Matthias Jochmann
I do know a little bit about the Gaza strip, but for those who don't know, can you
describe, what is the special situation about the Gaza strip and why is the work of Atfaluna needed that much?
03:09 Fidaa Shurrab
the Gaza stip is one of the most densely with population area in the world.
It's estimated that 2 million people live in the Gaza strip.
And the very narrow area of the Gaza strip.
The Gaza strip is encountered with many hardships and difficulties, due to several factors.
Since more than 11 years, the Gaza strip, suffered from a very tightened, siege.
And no movement, freedom is allowed.
We have no borders that we can at any time decide to travel.
The siege has imposed so many complications on the life and the living condition on the
people in the Gaza strip, economic difficulties, health problems, education restrictions.
So, the strip faces so many difficulties, but also the people in Gaza have the skill of coping mechanism.
There are many success stories coming out of the Gaza strip, but we learn how to laugh.
I heard, once someone said: From where did you learn, how to cope, in those difficult living conditions in all life aspects, this did not stop.
the people in Gaza from dreaming , from going after their wishes, you can see so many potentials for the youth.
All have this willingness to, to reach out the Gaza Strip.
We still believe that it's our right, to live in peace, to have the freedom of movement, to lift the siege.
It's very important.
To end all the violence and, against the people living in the Gaza trip and Palestine in general.
04:52 Matthias Jochmann
Could you draw a picture of your neighborhood, your environment, what do you see every day?
And also, how has it changed due to the pandemic, if at all?
05:05 Fidaa Shurrab
The most thing that the Gaza strip is kinda characterized with is the sea.
It's our only outlet, actually.
When we stand at the sea, we see the whole word, so the pandemic, was difficult and it has affected the lives, in Gaza.
It's true that we did not witness, huge outbreak among the community and people in Gaza.
It was really controlled in a very effective way, but it also increased the suffering of people.
Because now, the borders are even more tightened to be closed.
So people coming from abroad are being kept from 21 to 28 days in quarantine.
Because we know, if one case was being reported among the community, the whole Gaza strip will suffer a very devastating consequences.
We have very poor health system, due to political situation, imposed siege.
So, those who rule in Gaza, do all the efforts, to limit the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus among the community members.
But at the same time, as I said, it has affected the living condition of people.
So many people have lost their source of income.
We already have limited employment opportunities in the Gaza.
We have like 60% of unemployment rate while the world bank says that 80% of the Gaza strip people depend on humanitarian aid.
So the pandemic has increased the economy difficulties.
We in Atfaluna have witnessed so many reported cases of abuse and child issues.
GBV issues have been also increased, against women due to the distress that people suffer from the whole economic condition.
But the good thing that NGOs working in the Gaza strip, I'm sorry for the noise; working in the Gaza Strip...
07:06 Matthias Jochmann
what is the noise?
07:07 Fidaa Shurrab
It is the printer because the electricity went off.
So it when it went back, the printer has turned on, sorry for the phone as well.
07:21 Matthias Jochmann
Our conversation for this episode was interrupted 4 times due to an interruption in the electricity supplies.
07:26 Fidaa Shurrab
So, the NGOs they managed a very effective emergency response.
Education has somehow continued through e-learning modalities.
The psychosocial support was giving through remote modalities.
Here in Atfaluna, we had so effective approach in reaching our beneficiaries, and we did not stop our intervention.
We increased the services, we increased the efforts, so that the children in our care, are not
that much affected by the pandemic and, so that they start live in a good livelihood conditions.
08:04 Matthias Jochmann
So, today is August 19.
It's already some time that people start talking about the pandemic.
How do you perceive people around you currently being affected by the pandemic?
08:15 Fidaa Shurrab
They are afraid, but being careful and taking the precautionary measures are not at the same at the same level of the start of the pandemic in March.
Now people are somehow assured, but every time we learned that there are new reported cases in the quarantine, we do feel that there might be any heavy outbreak.
You can see people do not fully follow the precautionary measures, but other people do follow those precautionary measures.
But generally speaking, we have some kind of normal life going on.
People are moving freely in the streets.
Public places are open to receive people.
Precautionary measures are being taken, but not at the same level as when the pandemic started.
But fear is still there.
09:00 Matthias Jochmann
How did you personally first time hear about the pandemic and what did you think about it?
09:06 Fidaa Shurrab
Yes, it was on Saturday when the first two reported cases in the Gaza strip were reported.
First at the Westbank.
And there were like 80 reported cases and still the Gaza Strip was free of any reported cases.
the 4th of March, we learned about the two reported cases.
So when I came back to the work it was already, the decision is making to restrict all kinds of
activities and to limit all types of moving in the streets, to close down the markets, the public places.
Wedding halls were closed.
It was something new for us, how we will be continuing living in such a situation.
What if the pandemic has heavily outbreaken among the people living in Gaza.
So at the beginning, we used to work within a very limited team members.
So, we at Atfaluna 134 employees.
So at the first of the pandemic, only 30 people used to come to work.
Working on service providers and the admin staff, the emergency team.
so we were looking at our services, and what will we be doing?
and through discussions, learning from other experiences, searching online, seeing
how other countries that were affected, what they have done and learning from them.
So our main target is to raise the awareness of families and children about how to take precautionary measures against COVID.
And we started developing videos that can address children, adults provided in sign language.
And, written also messages, so that everyone would understand what is being said.
Then we started the remote psychosocial support.
The difficult thing that we do provide our economic empowerment program for our beneficiaries.
But this program stopped during the first month of the pandemic, because it depends on social
gatherings and bringing people here, to be trained and then sending them to the local market.
But the local market was closed and suffering from financial matters.
So it was difficult how to, respond to the livelihood or economic needs, for the families.
So we provided hot meals for families, through our food catering program.
That helped allieveating some of the suffering of the families, we provided them with
hygienic kits as well, so that they are protected, to their homes and home settings.
Messages to the families, how to treat the children during this pandemic and home confinement, how to answer their childrens questions.
The education also continued.
We developed somehow a very primitive e-learning approach.
We recorded educational videos to the children and formulated a WhatsApp-groups to the families.
And we sent those videos to the children, so that they are connected with the schools and their teachers.
So, it was difficult at the beginning, but it widened our way of thinking.
And we have we have these two modalities, the blended interventions, and also the remote or, e- online-modalities.
So it was a learning, actually, journey for us.
We are used to crisis in the Gaza Strip.
Especially in wars, but this pandemic was something new.
12:49 Matthias Jochmann
You just said something, which I was starting to guess that, the fact that you are living in Gaza, you are already used to difficult situations.
You're used to having big obstacles.
I was wondering if that helped you in overcoming these obstacles, raised now by the pandemic.
13:05 Fidaa Shurrab
Yes, it helped us because in every situation, we train people on crisis management.
And every intervention and every design of a project, we do have this risk matrix and the likelihood of happening and how we can mitigate those risks.
The new thing is that those risks include the political situation, security situation, social risks, economic risks, border's closure.
It has never contained any something related to natural disasters or even pandemics.
But the new thing that we have learned and, we built up on our experiences, because even during Wars, we did continue our intervention and services.
So this kind of link has led us to develop interventions during the pandemic.
So it was built on our experiences, and crisis management and living the crisis, not only managing it.
So yes, it helped me very much.
13:48 Matthias Jochmann
I mean, you've managed to tackle it so quickly.
It sounds like it's been, I mean difficult, but very quick and effective.
13:49 Fidaa Shurrab
But at the same time it requires so much of resources.
Hello again, I'm sorry.
Internet connection problems.I was saying that, yes, but it required so many efforts.
It is very challenging, especially when you're talking about remote services or interventions.
Not everyone in the Gaza Strip have internet connections or smartphones that they can be reached through.
So we were working in two modalities like providing the online or remote psychosocial through social media and other platforms and also hotlines.
But at the same time, our team used to go and reach out for those who do not have any kind of internet connections or smartphones.
It's challenging and it requires so much, so many resources to so that we can continue.
15:08 Matthias Jochmann
I would like to ask you for your personal experience with the pandemic.
Do you remember any special moments of surprise or, or, for me personally, when I look back to the last four or five months I can see a lot of ups and downs.
Many moments of fear and many moments of hope.
It has affected me on a personal level.
So in the first few months I was so afraid that my family members would be infected.
So everytime I read on how to protect ourselves from not being infected.
So I came up with this new things and new materials and hygienic materials and say, we should do this and should do that.
Every single place in our room should have hydrogen, alcohol so that we always do, sanitize our hands.
I used to tell my mom, I'm already going out to my work.
So, anything you want?
Don't send anyone, just tell me and I'll be bringing it, in my way home.
Those were very challenging moments, at all events, difficult, still they are difficult.
Still there are risks.
But also it opens our minds to think deeply, to reformulate our approaches.
It is a learning, difficult opportunity, this is how I would name it, for myself.
16:31 Matthias Jochmann
And then what gives you hope?
16:32 Fidaa Shurrab
It's not the last crisis that we're living.
It wasn't only the pandemic.
Yesterday and the day beforewe were witnessing Air Strikes across the Gaza Strip.
We still have hope to live.
We still have hope that this place will be a brighter place to live.
I have hope that we all in the Gaza Strip have the potentials, have the minds to do what is good for our community and what is good for ourselves.
As long as we have mind, I always believe in the saying that says, difficulties are brains.
So this is my hope, that difficulty doesn't mean that this is the end.
And there's always hope for a better life.
17:14 Matthias Jochmann
That's pretty warm words.
I mean, you know, like in the bubbles that I act in, more and more people were talking about solidarity and about resilience.
But this was more like, for me personally, I felt like this was something people thought about it in the beginning, but now they are like...
17:33 Fidaa Shurrab
Building the resilience and coping mechanisms is very important.
This is not a normal situation, but we should continue our normal life, but taking the consideration, all the precautionary steps that we need to take.
Coping and resilience is very important.
This pandemic has affected so many people psychologically.
Still, those who are affected by the virus do suffer from the stereotyping and people
would be afraid from communicating with them even after they heal from the virus.
But, also combating those stereotypes is very important.
18:16 Matthias Jochmann
I may ask, how does religion help you or influence you in coping with this and other crisis?
18:26 Fidaa Shurrab
You know, faith is very important in coping.
To have faith is very important, actually.
Being a Muslim, our religion has taught us to always have faith in Allah's destinies.
So yes, it helps us every, in every difficult situation.
Even if it's in the personal level or at the community level or the country level, we used to pray, so that any difficulties will be vanished anytime soon.
So faith do help us very much.
This pandemic, the precautionary measures of the pandemic depend only on hygienic acts.
We have several steps, several advices, on hygienic acts so that we are always clean and healthy.
We wash our hands in a certain way , with faces, our legs and everything.
So it did help, and everything is connected.
I believe that faith, religion to help any crisis.
In the Gaza Strip, yes, we are the Muslim community, but we enjoy a very decent life.
it's not very restricted.
We do go to the schools.
We do go to the universities.
We do enjoy our hobbies, we do this recreational activities, so, we do enjoy our life.
The stereotypes of the Gaza Strip, that we are a very restricted community, we have so many forbiddens.
Yes, we have some kind of forbiddens from, let me say, wrong acts as any kind of religion.
Like the Christians, like the Jewish religion.
So, but, we do enjoy our life.
Being a Muslim doesn't mean that we don't enjoy life, or we don't like living, being Muslim helps us, our faith helps us very much.
20:13 Matthias Jochmann
Could you, like, describe for people who don't know about the Gaza Strip describe for
people who don't know about the Gaza Strip, how much was traveling for you possible before the pandemic?
20:23 Fidaa Shurrab
traveling is very challenging here in the Gaza Strip.
We need to do so many procedures.
We have two ways of traveling either through Erez checkpoint that leads to Israel.
And then we travel through Jordan.
Or either by, through the Egyptian border, Rafah border.
Both cases are very difficult.
You should register like six months before we travel and do so many procedures.
Not like any country, and you wait and and you don't know if you get the chance to travel or not.
Traveling through Rafah border, for those who travel from Rafah or coming through Rafah, do
spend like week, in the streets before getting into Egypt, because of the political situation.
The humanitarian situation would be very difficult for the people who are traveling.
Actually for me, I would not take the decision to travel, throw Rafah border, because it would be difficult at the humanitarian level.
It would also insecure to stay like in a empty place, like Sinai, desert, and no place to go, sitting in the cars.
No access to water, no access to toilets, no access to food.
It would be very difficult.
Traveling through Erez checkpoint do also require a very strict procedures.
We have to coordinate with the Israeli side to get the permission.
We have to get the permission from the Jordanian side as well.
For myself, I was invited twice to travel to Jordan for a training course.
I get the Jordanian permission, but I did not get the permission from the Israeli side.
So I couldn't travel.
So, it's very challenging and you never know, if you are going to travel or not, it's, it's all a matter of possibilities.
You plan for traveling, but you don't know when and how you are going to be traveling.
And you have to think a million times before deciding to travel.
Those who do have studies abroad or do or have, some kind of trainings or, obligated with work contracts abroad.
22:32 Matthias Jochmann
So, I'm wondering if you follow like news or anything from, let me say the global North, or for example, Europe.
So now, especially in summertime, it seems like to some people the biggest concern is that they cannot travel.
So thinking of your situation - what do you think about this?
This is our right, to enjoy, the movement of, the freedom of movement.
Yes, we don't enjoy this privilege actually.
And I wish sometimes it is much easier to take a decision so that I can go, for example, on Eid-holidays, we have like nine days or seven days.
We don't have anywhere to go except being in the Gaza strip, visiting our relatives, going to the seaside.
But, actually thinking of the people living abroad, when it comes to long holidays, they have plans of traveling, visiting new countries, visiting new places.
But then we don't have this right.
Now we seek traveling for important issues, but also it's our right to seek traveling for entertainment.
For tourism purpose.
But we don't have this privilege.
But yes, it is our right, too.
And we think, and we all talk sometimes, like, for example, I would like to travel to Aswan, and visit those places in Aswan, but I can't.
And I think million times before taking the decision, yes, I want to go for a trip to travel, for visiting a country.
Unless it's important.
I won't take a decision off of traveling because I'll be suffering on both ways, going out and going and yeah.
24:12 Matthias Jochmann
Mm, thank you.
Now coming back the pandemic and how it influences the life in Gaza.
how do you envision or how do you imagine the next upcoming months to be.
24:24 Fidaa Shurrab
Living in Gaza.
You can't predict the situation.
We do have this saying, we don't know what will be happening.
We Plan, but we don't know if this is the right plan or not.
And now with the pandemic is one of the things that we should plan to overcome it.
And now we have this pandemic and we have also the political situation, is being deteriorated in the last two days.
So I can't predict what will be happening in the future, because it has been allways the case.
We plan to, continue, the way we're living, hoping that things will be much better.
The siege will be lifted up, the borders are open, but this is all, let me say dreams, became dreams.
Not something that you worked for and to achieve.
But I can't predict what's coming, this is the way we live in Gaza.
We can't predict what's coming Because one day we're good.
The other day we're faced with a war, for example, Air strikes, and now we have the pandemic.
So nothing is predictable
25:34 Matthias Jochmann
Do you have any question for me?
So you were in the West Bank, and you, as I have understood from you, and now you're in Germany.
So how do people in Germany now face the pandemic?
25:50 Matthias Jochmann
So I'm back in Germany since end of March.
And I think it changed a lot since then.
So when I had just arrived.
It was kind of the, maybe so far, the worst moment or the worst period in Germany and numbers were going very high.
And politics were very strict and then gradually they lifted these restrictions again, more and more.
And now the situation is that you basically can move freely.
And the numbers have pretty low for a long time.
But now in the last two to three weeks, they're increasing and everyone, or let's say many people are sure that there will be a
second wave, because now so many people felt or still feel very safe, going to different countries, have family gatherings, parties.
Weddings and so on again.
So we had some weeks where the infection rate was maybe 300-400 , and the last four or five days it has been more than than 1,500.
So, currently we can still move freely, but me personally, I unfortunately do expect that there will be new restrictions.
26:59 Fidaa Shurrab
So our hopes goes that, medicine would be discovered soon and issued before it is being a very difficult situation for all the countries.
27:14 Matthias Jochmann
Fidaa and I recorded this conversation on August 19 of 2020.
A week later, on August 25 I received an email by Fidaa, mentioning the first Corona-cases outside the designated quarantine areas and within the gaza-strip.
For the last ten days, Gaza has been exposed to daily air strikes and expected political escalations, adding to that, the siege has been further tightened up.
Only few goods and medications are being allowed into the Gaza Strip.
There is an acute shortage in fuel that operates the electricity station, as it is not allowed into Gaza.
The people in Gaza live in darkness with only 3-4 hours of electricity per day.
Yesterday, a new grave situation hit Gaza.
A total of 4 COVID-19 cases were reported in the community, with high risk that they have interacted a large number of people.
The responsible parties have announced high level of emergency situation and a-48 hours of complete lockdown was forced to limit the outbreak of the virus
in the community, since the health system in Gaza is already curtailed due to the siege and will be a challenge to deal with high numbers of infected people.
Up to the beginning of October there were more than 3000 positive Corona-cases spread in the Gaza Strip.
And the lockdown continued.
We will hear how Fidaa experienced this stressful period when talking to her again in the second season.
In the following episode of Record of CHange we will hear McKenzie Roller from the United States.
MCkenzie just graduated from Highschool and find her plans put upside down.
However, she's confident to tackle the challenges she now faces.
Follow us on your favourite Podcast provider, and find out more about the stories behind on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or our website, recordofchange.com.
This podcast is implemented with and by members of the Bosch Alumni Network, a community that brings together
former and current fellows, grantees and staff members of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and its partners.