During our recent trip as Feed A Village in Palestine, we visited many different areas within the West Bank. We had meeting with town councils and mayors to discuss who in their municipalities would benefit the most from our help of giving sheep, goats or fruit trees to help them self sustain in one way or another. We also decided whilst there to give out food parcels to those deemed most needy. During the delivery of the goats, trees and food parcels, we had a whistle-stop tour and a snapshot of many families in lots of villages. One thing stood out to us, how many families there were with disabled children, and not just one disabled child in the household, but usually 2,3 or even 4. One house we visited had 5 children, 4 of them were deaf/mute.
I thought back to a family we stopped with in a different area a couple of years ago, they had 4 children, 3 had serious disabilities and they had also lost some children, either through death or miscarriage. Elaine and I had a discussion about all the disabilities. Was this caused by the gene pool getting smaller? After all, most of these villages are now cut off from other areas. The Palestinians are not freely able to travel between towns and villages. Was this an unseen, unspoken part of the occupation, a serious consequence?
Forward to a few days later and we arrive in Bethlehem for Christmas. Whilst there we decide to visit the Caritas Baby hospital to deliver Christmas presents to the children in there. Afterwards we spoke with Bashir, the PR manager for the hospital. He told us that the admissions on genetic illnesses had increased hugely over the past few years. He said that 10 years ago you may have had one child who had cystic fibrosis, now they have many. He confirmed our suspicions that this is because the gene pool is shrinking. The hospital is carrying out genetic research and testing many of its patients and their parents.
This was honestly a part of the occupation that had not occurred to me, until we saw how many disabled children there were in each area. It is not an obvious association, but when you look at the lack of freedoms, travel etc, it comes down to who lives where and who you partner off with and marry. First cousins marry all the time, but when you are on perhaps the third generation of first cousins, this is when the waters muddy somewhat. And, obviously, I haven’t touched on the lack of water, food, poor diet, chemicals used etc etc can also affect fertility and childbirth obviously affecting the health of the child.
Sadly, the Palestinians land and rights have been fading over the years. Many remain steadfast and are very active against the occupation, but it is the poor villagers, who have very little who sadly seem to be the forgotten generation. I hope that by writing this piece, it highlights their need for the occupation to end and to open up their worlds again.
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