Due to insufficient aid and soaring prices in Gaza, Palestinians in the crowded city of Rafah are struggling to feed their families.
By Ruwaida Kamal Amer
Khalida Abu Ras, 55, lives in a tent in Rafah, the southernmost town of Gaza. She is one of approximately 1 million Palestinians – about half the population of the Gaza Strip – who now reside in the city. She was forced to flee her home in northern Gaza at the start of the war and has been homeless ever since. “ It is impossible for me to describe the suffering we experience“, she told +972. “ We are living the worst days of our lives. »
Beit Hanoun, his former home in the northeastern Gaza Strip, was one of the first places to become uninhabitable when the Israeli bombardment began. “Rings of fire surrounded the area day and night,” Abu Ras said. “I fled death with my five children and my grandchildren. »
In the months that followed, Abu Ras and his family moved from the far north of the Gaza Strip to the far south, but each place they stopped had two things in common: there was no There was no respite from Israeli bombing or invading forces, and there was a severe shortage of food. The same is true in Rafah: “Every three days we receive food aid, but it is only aid – a simple meal that does not satisfy a family of 15 people.
Israel’s response to Hamas’ October 7 attack on its southern communities was to quickly cut off the electricity and water it usually supplies to Gaza, as well as severely restrict entry. of food, fuel and humanitarian aid, intensifying an already crippling 16-year blockade. As a result, basic goods have become scarce in the Gaza Strip, while their prices have skyrocketed, making what little food is available unaffordable for many people.
“A kilo of salt, which used to cost one shekel, now costs 20 shekels or more (about $5.50),” says Abu Ras. “A box of yeast, which cost only 5 shekels, now costs 25 shekels (nearly $7). We can’t buy anything. »
International aid organizations are warning of catastrophic levels of famine. An Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report has placed the entire population of Gaza in a situation of acute food insecurity, which it defines as “crisis or worse”. According to the United Nations, 80% of people facing famine or catastrophic famine worldwide are in Gaza. Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip told CNN they were eating grass and drinking polluted water because no aid was reaching them.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) – the main body providing aid and shelter to the millions of displaced people in Gaza, which has just seen its funding cut by Western countries following allegations that 12 of its 13,000 employees in Gaza participated in the October 7 attack – said earlier this month that “humanitarian aid alone cannot meet the basic needs of the population (of Gaza).” Every day for the past week, dozens of Israeli demonstrators have tried – with some success – to block the passage of the little aid that Israel has allowed to enter the Gaza Strip from its territory.
“ No one can afford to buy anything for their family“
Salem Al-Murr, 35, father of three from Gaza City, has been displaced three times since the start of the war. With each trip, finding and buying food became an even greater challenge.
“We haven’t eaten fruit since the war started,” he told +972. “The price of meat has doubled. A kilo of beef used to cost 35 shekels, now it costs 90 shekels (about $25). These prices are unreasonable. We cannot afford them in the difficult conditions of war. A house today has more than 30 people. How can we buy enough food at these prices? »
Al-Murr and his family now live in a tent near the Egyptian border. “We have nowhere to go,” he laments. “I can’t believe I’m living in a tent. It was a painful journey.
Although they now live among hundreds of thousands of displaced people in what has become a tent city and are in close proximity to aid convoys entering Gaza from Egypt, Mr. Al- Murr and his family still suffer from extreme hunger. “Sometimes I go to the market to buy food, but I come back empty-handed because everything is too expensive,” he explains. “When we ask why prices are so high, they say that the goods are absent from the market and that there are no other sources of supply.
“We have been out of work for more than three months, we have no income,” continues Mr. Al-Murr. “We are forced to eat one meal a day – the canned goods we receive from humanitarian organizations. No one can buy anything for their family. I see children here crying from hunger, including my own. We can’t tell them there is no food. It is a war of starvation and displacement; it is a war against the people and a punishment for them.
Gazans are increasingly taking to social media to call for more aid to arrive so they can buy food for their children and save them from hunger and starvation. In the meantime, excessively high prices have even prevented hospital patients from having access to food.
Khaled Nabhan, from the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, was hospitalized with severe foot fractures following an Israeli airstrike on the camp. He was first taken to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City before being transferred to the European Hospital in Khan Younis. There he explains that he only eats one meal a day – “labneh or bahteh (rice with milk), and that is not enough. I stay hungry for hours every day. My family tries to buy food locally, but everything is too expensive. There is no treatment, no food, no shelter, nothing to enable us to endure this painful war.
Translation: AJC for Palestine Media Agency