Rafah, the Palestinian province bordering Egypt, is one of the poorest and most marginalised of all Palestinian territories. A blockade in place since 2007 has deprived residents of the most basic goods and services including health care and essential medicines. It has been even more difficult to get access to services required for people with disabilities.
There are approximately 123,000 people with disabilities living in the Palestinian Territories. That is 2.6 per cent of the population. At least 7,000 people with hearing disabilities live in the Gaza Strip alone, with 970 of those in Rafah.
In 2008, the escalation of the conflict in Gaza had a damaging impact on the psychosocial wellbeing of children and adolescents. Children with hearing disabilities suffer the double burden of life under conflict as well as discrimination. The inability to communicate fluidly with others has resulted in poor social adjustment and lack of self-confidence. They face difficulty accessing education, employment and later integrating into society.
El Amal Rehabilitation Society was created to serve people with disabilities in Rafah, focusing on services for deaf people. El Amal has since its establishment in 1991 expanded its services to include programmes directed towards non-deaf children.
El Amal’s School for the Deaf and Early Intervention Programme provides psychological and technical support for infants, pre-kindergarten children and their families. It also runs a kindergarten for deaf children and school for deaf children aged 6 to 15 years.
The organisation offers hearing and audiology tests and a speech therapy clinic, which provides all the necessary clinical services for deaf people, from initial screening to implants and treatment sessions.
El Amal’s adult education centre provides vocational training and job creation for deaf young people as well as to non-disabled youth. Its Al Sanabel club for children aims to provide a healthy and friendly space for children without disabilities aged 4 to 15 year sold.
In addition to its programmes, El Amal works on advocacy to ensure employment opportunities and accessibility for deaf children and adults. In December 2016 El Amal Rehabilitation Society celebrated 25 years of work in the sector.
Photo: Ezz Al Zanoon