While other children delightedly purchase sweets and toys just days before the end of Ramadan, 12-year old Ahmed Hussain is busy selling them in Al Saha square; one of the most well known markets attended by Gazans preparing themselves for Al Fitr feasting.
Ahmed is accustomed to roaming the same spot every day from the early morning up to the Magreb Athan; also known as sunset, and then returns back at dawn to sell his goods again.
“None of my brothers, or I, bought any new clothes for Eid like the rest of the children since there is no time or money for joy and happiness in our house. We can barely provide ourselves with the basics like food and necessities,” he said.
In Muslim countries around the world, it is tradition to buy new outfits and toys for the children before Eid Al Fitr. Whether homemade or purchased, customary sweets, candies and traditional cookies filled with dates (ka’ek) are also crucial during this occasion.
However, things tend to be a little different here in the besieged coastal territory since many of the children in Gaza find themselves compelled to work for longer hours before and during Eid in order to gain the opportunity to make some extra money.
This is due to the deteriorating economic conditions Gaza has been facing ever since the suffocating blockade by the Israeli state, making it increasingly difficult for parents to provide a decent income for their families.
“I don’t remember celebrating previous Eids like the other children around here since I don’t have any other choice but to keep on working to make any means of income since we are living in a very bad condition. My father is a laborer who only works a couple of days a week and I therefore have four other younger siblings to support and take care of,” Ahmed added.
The high unemployment rate obliges families to allow their young children to find means of work on the street; selling anything in order to support their families.
Last year, a report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics stated that more than 25 percent of Palestinians suffer from poverty. An estimated 50,000 children in Gaza are in the labor market.
“Many of the children in Gaza find themselves holding huge responsibilities for their families since the parents can’t provide much for them which may affect their health and education,” said Aisha Abu Shaqra, the head of the child protection unit at the Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution.
“I didn’t enjoy Ramadan or had a rest at all from selling in the streets. During Ramadan I was accustomed to selling mint since people need it for salads and tea but nowadays people are in need of candies and sweets for the Eid. I therefore have to change what I sell from one time to another according to the occasion and the needs of the people.”
As the people of the Gaza strip continues to suffer from poverty, children in the region see the joy and dreams of Eid Al Fitr shattered year after year.