RAFAH, Gaza Strip: Displaced Gazans sheltering in a school courtyard in Rafah were resorting to desperate measures such as diluting baby milk powder in too much water or giving children one meal a day because there was not enough food to go around.
At the southern tip of Gaza, on the border with Egypt, the Rafah area was the only one in the whole of the Palestinian enclave to have received limited aid deliveries over the past four days, the UN humanitarian office said on Thursday.
But there was still not enough food for everyone and parents said their children were getting sick and losing weight.
Sitting on a mat in front of his family’s tent in a makeshift displacement camp, Zakaria Rehan held his baby boy, Yazan, and a feeding bottle with a small amount of liquid.
“This is basically water with a spoonful of powder, even less than a spoonful, anything so it just smells like milk, just so I can trick him into thinking it is milk so he can drink it,” said Rehan. “But it isn’t healthy, it doesn’t give him any nutrition.”
Rehan said all the families in the camp were facing a daily struggle to find food and a means to cook it. He said he had eaten raw beans from a can that came in an aid delivery because there was no fuel for a fire.
“Yes, there is aid that comes in, but it isn’t enough at all. It isn’t enough for all the families. You get a can of beans, or a can of meat, for 10 people. Even if one person was to eat this alone, it wouldn’t satiate him.”
Food shortages have been a problem throughout the two-month-old war between Israel and Hamas, but have worsened since the end of a week-long truce on Dec. 1 as the number of aid trucks entering from Egypt has fallen and distribution has been hindered by intense combat, including in southern Gaza.
ONLY MEAL OF THE DAY
In the mouth of another tent at the Rafah school camp, three children were eating rice out of a single pan. Their mother, Yosra Al-Deeb, said they would have nothing else for the rest of the day.
“The children sleep hungry and wake up hungry. I made them a meal, and that’s the only meal they eat in a day, the rest of the day they don’t eat,” she said, her anger and exhaustion showing in her face.
“At home, I used to feed them a nutritious meal, they never got sick. But here, they’re always sick, every day they have stomach flu,” she said.
In another part of the camp, Naji Shallah had chopped some tomatoes and a green pepper and was preparing to cook them in a small pan. He too said this would be his children’s only meal of the day.
“If I could find bread for my children, it would be like having a pound of gold,” he said, adding they were dehydrated from lack of food and water and that one of his sons had lost a lot of weight.
“And if I secure bread, I can only give my child half a loaf, because if he were to eat the whole loaf, he won’t eat the next day.”
The war began on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants rampaged through southern Israel, killing 1,200 people including babies and children and kidnapping 240 hostages of all ages, according to Israeli figures.
Vowing to destroy Hamas and free the hostages, Israel launched a military assault on Gaza that has killed more than 17,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
UN humanitarian chief Volker Turk has described living conditions in the bombarded strip as “apocalyptic.”