As part of the 'Where I live' series, the Al Jazeera Magazine asked people from around the world how their lives have been influenced by where they live. Meet Naama and her son Abed, who suffers health problems because of the industrial pollution in their home village.
In the Bedouin village of Wadi al-Na'am in the Negev Desert, Naama's son Abed has been suffering from respiratory problems since he was a month old.
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Abed needs to use a breathing machine five times a day. But because the village is unrecognised by the Israeli government and deprived of electricity, the family must use batteries and a generator to power the machine, which often runs out at critical moments.
Naama and her husband were both born and raised in Wadi el-Na'am, a village – home to some 8,000 people - in which they now raise their four children in a house made of tin.
During the 1950s, the Israeli government settled around half of the Al-Azazme Bedouin tribe in the area, but as the residents never registered their holdings on paper, their villages were considered illegal and branded ‘unrecognised’. Because of this designation, residents spend their lives in constant fear that at some point their tin houses will be demolished by the government.
But of even greater concern for the residents is the existence of the Ramat Hovav hazardous industrial park and industrial waste facility just 1km away. Built in 1979, it currently hosts 14 agro- and petro-chemical factories as well as a toxic waste incinerator. The stated goal of building it there was to keep the resulting pollution and toxic material far from populated areas, and Naama believes it is exactly that pollution that has caused her son's illness.
The village is also surrounded by a large electrical site and an area used for Israeli military testing.
An epidemiological survey on morbidity and mortality in the Negev, which was released by the Israeli Ministry of Health in July 2004, found higher rates of miscarriages, prenatal deaths, respiratory problems and birth defects among Bedouin communities in the area surrounding the industrial park, and residents of Wadi el Na'am have expressed particular concern about instances of cancer, asthma in children under the age of six, eye infections, infertility and miscarriages.
But while the plight of Wadi al-Na'am is extreme, it shares similarities with the other 46 unrecognised Bedouin villages in the Negev. Deprived of basic services such as electricity, running water, a sewage system and waste disposal, these marginalised and disregarded communities have become socio-economic and health time bombs.
For residents like Naama, there is little they can do except hope that the authorities will find a new living arrangement for their families - far from the pollution that currently plagues their lives.
Source: Al Jazeera