Written by: Mahmoud Hassanein

It is not strange to visit a camp and not see on the threshold of the UNRWA clinic a group of women waiting for treatment and medicine. This torrent of women does not stop. In the North of Ramallah sits Al-Jalazun camp. It is one of the Palestinian refugee camps that is inhabited by thousands of refugees. More than 50% of its residents are women who have had diseases since childhood.

It is as though fate is targeting these women. Their children go to school in the morning while diseases ravage their bodies. They go to the UNRWA clinic so that they may find some medicine for their chronic diseases such as stress, diabetes and depression. This scene is repeated daily and the number of sick women increases in the winter when diseases invade their emaciated bodies.

Despite all of this, the acute shortage of medication provided by UNRWA added another burden. They can only find a few medicines and most of them are forced to buy them from the pharmacy. Often, this drug is costly and is a constant financial burden on them.

Some youth groups inside the camp are trying to provide women, especially the elderly, with some medicines. It is an effort but is it possible to empty the seawater with a small spoon?! These efforts fill the great void the camp needs due to the absence of the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA's roles in providing the necessary services to the camps and their residents.

The reality of the refugee woman in the camps is seen only by the refugees themselves. No matter how long visitors go, they cannot discover what the Palestinian woman is going through between the camp walls. Many of them suffer from social, psychological and economic violence caused by several problems. The most important of which are poverty and unemployment. It is as though the camp has become a snowball rolling and increasing in size day by day, crushing whatever stands in its way.

It is not strange if you pass by one of the alleys and find a woman in a small shop that manages it to provide for her home and givewhat is needed. This has become one of the axioms in the camp. If she cannot open a shop, you will find her cooking in her home and selling products to other families or restaurants. At the same time, a large part of the women make and sell sweets inside the camps' shops to see this as an opportunity to help their husbands and increase the family's income.

Despite this, the suffering of refugee women is neither less severe and nor less harsh outside the camp. Despite all the extreme conditions, refugee women studied in universities, they worked hard to change their situation. It is impossible to overlook their achievements, challenges and difficulties that they face in their lives.

More than seven decades after the Nakba, the refugees believe that the camp environment is unhealthy and unsuitable for long-term life. The effects of this living is becoming more evident in women as they age early and move from childhood to old age in a rushed manner. All the smells from fireplaces, car exhaust and the occasional overflow of sewage drains make living unbearable.

Dear visitor, do not be deceived by the laughter and smile on women's faces in some moments. The truth is that they are unhappy and what is in their souls is not visibly seen. The only one who has tasted the bitterness of the experience or lived in the camp for one month considers this. You will receive certainty when you look at a woman in the camp and ask yourself: What would she have been if she had been born outside the camp?!

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's views and not necessarily the Association's or donor's opinion.