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Iman Hassan Hamdan, a married mother of six, from al-Bureij Refugee Camp speaks of the daily difficulties when power is available for only a few hours a day

I’m 34 years old. I’m married and have six children: Ranin is 13, Saja, 11, Arwa, 9, Muhammad, 7, and Ibrahim is a year old.

We’ve been suffering from power cuts for over ten years. In the early years, the power would go off for eight hours a day, but in recent months, the situation has deteriorated and become unbearable. Now we get power for only four hours, and then it goes off for more than twelve hours. For example, if we start getting power at 10:00 A.M., it goes off at 2:00 P.M., and comes back on only at 2:00 o’clock in the morning. Even when there is power, there are interruptions in supply. That is, during the four hours when the power is connected, it goes off two or three times for a few minutes.

Our lives and our sleep are governed by when the power comes on or goes off. It often comes back on when I’m asleep, at 2:00 A.M., and I have to get up right away and run the washing machine because there’s a pile of the children’s laundry waiting for electricity. If there’s no bread in the house, I also knead dough and bake it at night in the electric pot. I bake at home, because my husband’s out of work and we can’t afford to buy bread in the market. The power could go off in the middle of baking, and then I have to go down to my in-laws’ on the ground floor, to continue baking in their gas oven. Using the electric pot is better because pita bread baked in it stays fresher longer. When you bake it in the gas oven, it dries up more quickly, but I have no other choice.

Our house is roofed with metal sheets, and in the summer the air inside is burning hot, and there’s no way to run a fan, because there’s no electricity. My children and I have to keep taking cold showers because it’s impossible to sleep otherwise, because of the heat. My baby boy, Ibrahim, sometimes gets a rash from the heat, and I have to use ointment. He cries at night and can’t fall asleep.

When my husband goes to the market I ask him to buy only a few vegetables, because the fridge stands useless in the kitchen. I don’t put anything in it because there’s no electricity. Everything you put in it rots. Because we hardly ever use it, I have to keep washing the inside of the fridge, so it doesn’t start to stink. School is out for the summer now, and the kids have nothing to do except watch TV. Unfortunately, they can’t watch every day because there isn’t always electricity during the day. When the power is on at night, they’re already asleep. Also, we don’t have adequate lighting in the house. The lamp we have works on a battery that needs to get charged when the power is on, and the light it gives is hardly enough to see anything around the house. We try to conserve the battery as much as possible, because the electricity doesn’t stay on long enough to fully charge it.

We can’t afford to buy a generator, because my husband is out of work, and even if we could buy one, we wouldn’t be able to afford the upkeep – the gas or diesel. It’s now Ramadan, and it’s a hot summer. We really want to drink cold water, but there’s no power to cool the water, so we have to drink tepid water. Sometimes, if there are ice cubes left in the freezer, we add them to the water bottle and drink.

Iman Hassan Muhammad Hamdan, a married mother of six, lives in al-Bureij Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip. Her testimony was collected by B’Tselem field researcher Khaled al-‘Azayzeh, in her home, on 18 June 2017.