Laila, who lives in Gaza City, has been widowed for 21 years. She has four grown sons, two with severe physical disabilities. After her husband died she continued living in his family home for eight years but her brother-in-law controlled her life and the lives of his parents.

“He would only give us small amounts of food and I had to get his permission to go outside. He would also beat me and my sons. After my father-in-law died my brother-in-law threw me out of the house and I had to go back to my family. My brother-in-law and the rest of the family wanted to keep my children but I didn’t let them. My sons need special care because of their disabilities, and I knew my brother-in-law would treat them badly.”

With help from a charitable organisation Laila moved into a tiny house – registered in the name of her brother-in-law – with one room, bathroom and kitchen.

“We pull the mattresses down at night, my four sons and I. There are so many difficulties. There is no space for any privacy and we have to get changed in the kitchen or bathroom. The house is always a mess because there’s no space.”

During Israel’s 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead offensive many bombs exploded around the house, causing a large crack. Terrified the house would collapse she moved her disabled sons nearer the door. Afterwards, Laila realised she was ineligible for a grant to reconstruct the house as she is not the registered owner. NRC approached her brother-in-law but he would not cooperate.

Laila inherited some money which she has used to buy a small plot of land but she is dependent on limited help from the Ministry of Social Affairs.

“I hope I will get some help to build a new home on the land I have bought to provide a better life for my children. I am very tired of the situation. I wish I could do more for my sons. It is very difficult to care for them even with some help from my brothers. I have to do almost everything for them. I take them to the bathroom. They are heavy, and I have my own health problems.”