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Child born into a life of conflict in Gaza

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Mariam, born during the outbreak of the Gaza conflict, is still sickly

By Katya Adler
BBC News, Gaza

Mariam El-Sharif was born a year ago into a world of conflict and violence.

Her extended family crowds around a cake with one pink candle on it.

The walls of this front room in northern Gaza are still riddled with bullet and mortar shell holes.

Life is hard for my daughter - we still live in fear in Gaza and there is no hope that life will get better
Saadiyia al-Sharif,
Gaza resident

Israel began a three-week long assault on Gaza, a couple of hours after Mariam came in to the world. Panic and chaos spread throughout Gaza's main hospital.

Israel says its operation was aimed at Palestinian militants, who for years had been firing rockets at Israeli families over the border.

But hundreds of Gaza's civilians were killed and thousands were injured in Israel's military campaign.

Born prematurely, Mariam spent the war here in an incubator. Her mother was sent home to make room for the wounded.

I met Saadiya Sharif days after the war. She had just been reunited with her daughter.

"I'm always holding her. I don't let her out of my sight now," she told me.

"It was very difficult. Mariam was in the hospital without me for 21 days. We couldn't leave our house to pick her up because of the shelling. Israeli soldiers were based across the road from us."

Frustrations

One year later Gaza is still bruised and battered and Mariam is still sickly.

We went with her and her mother to a UN clinic.

GAZA CONFLICT CASUALTIES
Total Palestinian deaths:
1,409 (PCHR)
1,387 (B'Tselem)
1,166 (Israeli military)
Palestinian children killed:
326 (under 17, PCHR)
252 (under 16, B'tselem)
89 (under 16, Israeli military)
Palestinian civilians killed:
916* (PCHR)
773* (B'tselem)
295 plus 162 unknown (Israeli military)
Israelis killed:
3 civilians
10 security forces (includes 4 by friendly fire)
*Figs exclude about 250 Hamas police officers

PCHR=Palestinian Human Rights Centre, B'Tselem=Israeli human rights group

Mariam is examined regularly there, but the medicine she needs is often unavailable or too expensive.

Israel allows basic humanitarian supplies in to Gaza but it still has a punishing blockade in place here.

Israel says the aim is to put pressure on the militants, but the people of Gaza say everyone suffers.

Last month, the World Health Organization warned that 125 of 480 essential drugs were at "zero level". This means there was less than one month's supply left.

Israel allows most medicines into Gaza, but amounts can vary and their transfer can be slowed by Israeli and Palestinian bureaucracy.

The entry of medical equipment and other goods is severely limited.

After weighing and measuring Mariam, Dr Salim Ramadan told us of the frustrations of being a doctor in Gaza.

He said Mariam's case was typical. He often prescribes medicines to patients that either turn out not to be available in Gaza or that have been smuggled in from Egypt through the tunnels but at such a cost that few Gazans can pay.

'What to do?' he said. 'We have 65% of people living here under the poverty line and the situation is just getting worse.'

Mrs Sharif is also exasperated.

As a mother, she should be able to provide for her daughter, she says, but she couldn't give Mariam her breastmilk when she was born as they were kept apart by the war and now, a year later, she still can't protect her - economically, medically or in terms of safety.

"Life is hard for my daughter. We still live in fear in Gaza and there is there is no hope that life will get better," she says.

"She wants to be like children in the Western world - to play, to have complete freedom. In the future, if she wants to travel, if she wants a normal life, she can't have this in Gaza. Israel's siege controls our lives."

Twelve months after Israel's military operation in Gaza, Hamas, Israel's enemy, remains in power while ordinary people feel unable to pick up the pieces of their lives

Mariam's family like so many others here say they trust no-one and fear for the future.



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