I adopted a stray cat, then my world fell apart one week later

Tarneem Hammad who works for Medical Aid for Palestinians

Tarneem works for Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) (Picture: Palm Media/MAP)

Every time I step into a hospital in Gaza, I witness unspeakable atrocities and the most horrendous injuries a human can think of.

Like the time I was standing next to a resuscitation room in Al-Aqsa Hospital where doctors sedated a nine-year-old child to ease his suffering as he died.

His mother’s screams echoed throughout the building. They still echo in my nightmares.

Since the start of Israel’s military bombardment on Gaza in October, I have been working with my colleagues at Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) to support our emergency response. Every task is met with its own set of challenges, such as impassable roads or the constant threat of bombing.

But living here has never been easy.

I was born in Saudi Arabia to Palestinian parents, but we moved to Gaza when I was 10.

I led a relatively decent life, despite Israel’s occupation and blockade, which routinely caused shortages of water, electricity, medical care, and freedom of movement. This blockade hangs like a shadow over everyone’s work, lives and passions.

Damage caused to Tarneem’s home (Picture: Palm Media/MAP)

Gaza still felt like a place of opportunity though, where you could put in effort and make a somewhat normal life happen with an education, career, relationships and some travel if you were lucky. I have been fortunate to visit other parts of the Middle East, the US and the UK.

After earning my Master’s degree at Durham University, I returned home in 2022 and joined MAP.

My work involves advocating for Palestinians’ rights to health and dignity – including visiting our projects, recording stories, presenting research, or talking to journalists and partners.

At the start of October last year, my life seemed settled. I even adopted a cat that I called Beasty.

Tarneem’s cat Beasty has been with her every step of the way (Picture: Palm Media/MAP)

But on the seventh day of that month, the current war began, and forced me to become a rapid response humanitarian.

My days are now spent delivering much-needed assistance to our communities. This ranges from distributing hygiene kits, clothes, mattresses, blankets, food, and medical supplies to providing shelter, medical needs, and support to displaced families.

Our water tanks are empty, and the thought of another day without a drop of water to drink weighs heavily on my mind.

Most terrifying of all is the ever-present fear of death. To date, more than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military, according to the health ministry. In fact, the true death toll could be more than 186,000 people, according to correspondence recently published in the journal The Lancet.

Medical Aid for Palestinians

For more information about Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), visit their website here.

Two of my uncles and 13 of my cousins have been killed. Three of them are still buried under the rubble.

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