Azba Ghannam was
born in the village of Marwahine close to the Israeli border in
southern Lebanon and has lived there all her life. But in all of her 70
years, the widow has never experienced times like these.
fled the conflict and returned to find a missile in her kitchen, and
the huge holes it had smashed through the whitewashed walls of her
has blue tattoos on her chin, and a habit of repeating things to
herself – like an old woman used to being alone. Her three sons are
married and live up north, and their jobs keep them there.
She was out in her fields picking tobacco leaves when she heard the Israeli planes overhead.
“They told us to leave the village so we left everything at once. We went running west to Umm Aitout. It took about an hour.”
Azba made it to the neighbouring village with the aid of her walking
stick. There she and some relatives hired a taxi to take them to safety
Following Azba’s taxi was a pickup truck packed with her relatives and neighbours, also escaping from Marwahine.
truck was right behind us, but they slowed down. Then we heard an
explosion and the truck disappeared, so we knew it had been hit,” she
said. Later she learnt that 15 children and 8 adults had been killed in
Azba spent the next month living in a school
in Beirut, where conditions were very cramped. Grief for her relatives
killed on the road added to her distress.
the ceasefire Azba returned to her house and found it full of rubble
and shards of glass. A bomb had torn through her home, leaving
consecutive holes like a maggot eating an apple. She found the spent
missile in her kitchen.
Azba set to work clearing up the
mess by herself. Her husband had died 25 years ago, and her neighbours
were busy with their own damaged homes.
She rescued dusty
mattresses and bedding from beneath the rubble. Her most precious
discovery was a bottle of olive oil, from her own olives - still
intact. “Thank God, He saved my olive oil for me!”
doesn’t know how she will repair her home before winter sets in. “I’m
depending upon God,” she says. “Perhaps charitable people will help.”
water has been cut off, so Azba borrows it from her neighbours who have
a rainwater reservoir. There has been no electricity since the
beginning of the war.
Azba suffers from high blood
pressure. Her medication is running out and the local clinic has been
shut since the war. She has enough for perhaps another 10 days and it
upsets her that she doesn’t know how she will get more.
Living in Fear
says she suffers psychologically from grief for her lost relatives and
shock at the destruction in her village. She says she still fears the
Israelis despite the ceasefire. When she hears the sound of their
planes overhead, her knees get weak and she cannot stand up.
cannot help crying as she confesses she cannot sleep at night because
she is so afraid. “The Israelis are still here. They drive through the
village at night and no-one can stop them. They can see us here now,”
she says, glancing warily out of the door towards the hills.
her age, Azba still farms her land, growing olives and wheat for her
family and herself. Like most farmers in south Lebanon, she also grows
tobacco to sell.
“I used to have tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers and marrows, but they all died.”
She has received food parcels from Islamic Relief, including oil, canned food, flour, tea, sugar and powdered milk.
food is not her main concern. When asked what she will do when her food
runs out she replies, “I don’t care to eat or drink. May God help me,
may God help me!”