A small business in Israel's war-time Gaza sews padded cloth diapers, creating jobs and helping weary parents

AP , Saturday 17 Feb 2024

Their scissors move quickly, shearing pieces of white cloth to be stitched together with cotton pads and taken to market in battered cardboard boxes.

Diapers Rafah
Palestinian women sew diapers in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. AP


Before the day is done, the Palestinian seamstresses will have sewn 500 diapers and distributed them to war-weary parents in Gaza, under the brutal Israeli war, for about $4 per package of eight, half of what mass-produced disposable diapers cost in the besieged enclave.

Maysaa Qatati, the manager of the sewing workshop, knows the output will barely make a dent in the huge demand — but the little business is thriving and creating jobs.

“People were looking for pampers and could not find them,” she said from the whirring workshop in Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza. “They would stand in line at the merchant and buy it at a very high price.”

The Israeli war on Gaza has sparked a humanitarian catastrophe, spawning shortages of the most basic necessities and sending prices of basic goods soaring. The situation has hit parents of young children particularly hard — the going market rate for diapers in Gaza is over 10 times higher than what it was before the war.

Around 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are crammed into apartment buildings and tent camps in Rafah, this city on the border with Egypt, as Israeli warplanes swoop overhead. Israel's war on the strip has killed over 28,600 Palestinians, in vast majority women an children, and unleashed a humanitarian catastrophe of unimaginable scale. Israel's military says the next target is Rafah.

Israeli airstrikes have struck residential areas, infrastructure, and vital facilities. 

The vast majority of man-made structures in the Gaza Strip have been reduced to rubble as a direct result of the Israeli aggression.

Civilians, including women and children, have borne the brunt of the violence, with innocent lives being tragically cut short.

Sporadic aid deliveries, hobbled by Israeli restrictions and relentless fighting, have compounded an already dire situation. At makeshift street stalls, older children working as hawkers sell individual diapers for 3-5 shekels ($1 to $1.50) or entire packs of 50 for up to 200 shekels ($55).

In some cases, parents say they have resorted to easily soiled cloth diapers. But cleaning those is difficult when water is so scarce. The disposable diapers made in Qatati's sewing workshop are an improvement because of the cotton pads.

“People cannot provide for their children,” said Imad Abu Arara, who sells the workshop's diapers at the market. “This factory is an alternative to this problem and is much cheaper.”

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