Galit and Nathan Yudkovichi - Abdullah Shama
Galit and Nathan Yudkovichi at home in Midgal Haemek. Photo by Abdullah Shama
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The Housing and Construction Ministry has refused to move a couple with a premature baby to a larger apartment, although the conditions in their tiny state-owned apartment are hazardous to the baby's health.

"Our situation is beyond despair," said Galit Yudkovichi, 41, of Migdal Haemek, whose son was born in her 29th week after a very difficult pregnancy, during which she was treated at four different hospitals.

The infant weighed 825 grams following a delivery that endangered both his and his mother's life and he was kept in the premature baby ward for three and a half months. Two and a half months ago he was released from the hospital under strict instructions to keep him in a sterile room. He needs inhalation treatments several times a day to help his lungs develop. But he lives and sleeps in his parents' crowded bedroom, the only bedroom in the apartment provided by Amigour, a public housing company.

This is also where he is changed, fed and washed and where he gets his medical treatments. The infant has not been circumcised yet for medical reasons and so remains unnamed, the couple says.

"He is very vulnerable and everything is contagious for him," said the baby's father Nathan, 43. "He lies very close to us and every time we cough or breathe when we're sick causes him harm." The bedroom doesn't have a door to keep the cold out, because the closet at its entrance does not allow installing one. "Our life is not worth living," Galit said.

The tiny space, financial plight and concern over the infant's welfare have compounded the pressures on the couple. "We're on the verge of divorce. Instead of rejoicing over our firstborn we're in terrible distress. I haven't had one moment of happiness since he was born," she said.

Galit has acute arthritis and can only work part time. Nathan was recently fired from his job at an aluminum workshop. The two eke out a subsistence living on Galit's National Insurance Institute payments and Nathan's unemployment allowance. In the meantime they are accumulating debts.

"All I ask is for a better future for my child," she says. "We only want an apartment with a small room where the child can grow in a normal way. Where will he learn to crawl, for example?" They say Amigour told them the delay in moving stemmed from a lack of approval for the move from the Housing Ministry. The Housing Ministry spokesman commented that the company has a limited number of apartments with a long waiting list. The couple does not qualify for a larger apartment since a two-room apartment accommodating two people with a baby is not "crowded" according to ministry criteria, he said.

The couple appealed the ministry's decision and their request was heard by the ministry's district housing committee, which also rejected it. They have appealed again and their request is about to be reviewed by the ministry's national housing committee.

The ministry has asked the committee to expedite the appeal, he said. Amigour said they would also expedite providing a larger apartment if the appeal is granted.