Framework

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Children in the Alwadiya extended family look through a cloth that serves as a door to their house in Gaza City. The patriarch, Salih, has three wives, 14 sons and 6 daughters. Most of the sons, married with children, are among the dozens of people living in bad conditions in the small rooms of the house.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Adel Hana / Associated Press

Majed Alwadiya, 31, watches the children in his extended family as they play outside the family home in Gaza City. The house was cobbled together using scrap wood, salvaged concrete bricks and corrugated aluminum.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Adel Hana / Associated Press

Manar Alwadiya, 12, left, and sister Heba, 6, are among the occupants of the house in Gaza City. The Alwadiya family is among the Gazans who live in dire poverty, defined by the United Nations as living on less than $2 a day.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Adel Hana / Associated Press

Umm Abood Alwadiya, 36, hands out candy to children as they celebrate the third day of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha in front of the family's house in Gaza City. Most of the food and clothing for the extended family come from donations.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Adel Hana / Associated Press

Razan Alwadiya, 4, applies nail polish on her sister Tahani Alwadiya, 5, while celebrating on the third day of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha in front of their family's house in Gaza City. Most of their family's clothes and food come from donations. About two-thirds of Gaza's 1.7 million people depend on aid to get by.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Adel Hana / Associated Press

Rafah Alwadiya, 13, shares his family compound in Gaza City with a goose and pigeons. The home of the extended Alwadiya family consists of a kitchen, several small bedrooms and an empty space devoted to the birds.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Adel Hana / Associated Press

Oday Alwadiya, 11, and sister Seba, 3, make use of a swing in the small yard of their family's house in Gaza City. The home sits near a sewage plant, which gives the family cause for concern, but the Alwadiyas have nowhere else to live.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Adel Hana / Associated Press

Palestinian Salih Alwadiya, 61, at home with wife Handoma, 54, who suffers from high blood pressure. "When electricity cuts off, as happens every day, I go to the bed in front of the pigeon cage," he says. "In the day, we suffer from flies, and at night, we suffer from mosquitoes."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Adel Hana / Associated Press

Alyaa Alwadiya, 27, and her son Loai, 4, stand in the kitchen of their family's house in Gaza City.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Adel Hana / Associated Press

Heba Alwadiya, 6, takes a shortcut to her family's house in Gaza City. The family's only form of transportation is a donkey cart.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Adel Hana / Associated Press

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Photo essay | Gaza’s poorest struggle to survive

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Salih Alwadiya is among the Gaza Strip’s poorest. The 61-year-old’s home consists of a kitchen, several small rooms and a space devoted to pigeons and a goose. Many of his 20 children live with him and his three wives near a sewage plant. In all, more than 50 people live in the small compound.

Their only form of transportation is a donkey cart, as his motorcycle is broken. With a roof made of scrap metal, his only escape from the stifling heat is to lie down in the dark room with the pigeons.

“When electricity cuts off, as happens every day, I go to the bed in front of the pigeon cage,” Alwadiya says. “In the day, we suffer from flies, and at night, we suffer from mosquitoes.”

Although Gaza has always been poor, conditions in the crowded seaside territory have worsened since Hamas militants seized power in 2007. Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist group, along with Egypt imposed a blockade that greatly restricted the flow of goods to and from the territory. Although the blockade has been eased, the economy remains stagnant.

Roughly 70% of Gaza’s 1.7 million people rely on handouts, and per-capita GDP, a measure of economic activity, is lower today than it was in 1994, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Nearly half the population lives in dire poverty, defined by the United Nations as living on less than $2 a day.

Like many Gazans, Alwadiya, the family patriarch, used to work as a laborer in Israel. But Israel long ago stopped letting Gazans enter to work. Alwadiya, who lost his right leg in a car accident as a child, was also wounded by shrapnel in an Israeli airstrike in 2008. He lost his job as a security guard seven months ago and remains unemployed.

The family earns a little by selling eggs. Most of the family’s food and clothes come from donations. Alwadiya’s wife Handoma, 54, suffers from high blood pressure, and Alwadiya fears the children will get sick from exposure to the sewage near the yard where they play.

“We are suffering from the smell of the garbage and the sewage daily,” he says.

A daughter-in-law, Ibtisam, lives in a small bedroom with her husband and three young children. She says she pushes the children to study hard in hopes of a better life. “This is our priority,” she says.

Associated Press

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