With no food, Gaza stares down an empty barrel of starvation
In the besieged Gaza Strip, amid continuous Israeli attacks, Gaza's residents are grappling with an unprecedented food crisis, where acquiring necessities like bread and water has become both challenging and perilous.
On October 9, Israel imposed a "total siege" on Gaza, coupled with the bombing of bakeries, supermarkets, and water tanks. After more than a month of continuous bombardment, Palestinians have exhausted their resources, and there are no food or water supplies.
“We used to fear the Israeli airstrikes on our homes, but now we fear famine. All the bakeries in the area (Al-Daraj neighbourhood, East Gaza) are closed, and there is no flour or fuel available. I don't know what level will we reach at this stage,” Zaid Hamada, a Gazan resident, said.
“The last time I went to the supermarket, it was almost empty. Only a few packets of pasta and rice were available. I bought them. The worst part is that I have pasta and rice for today, but what am I going to do tomorrow when the food supplies are not available?” Zaid added.
"The situation in the Gaza Strip is so catastrophic and indescribable. People are hungry and thirsty, and we are dreaming of being able to have something to eat all the time. Every day, when we get up in the morning, we seek any food that will keep us alive"
Adnan Abu Hasna, the media adviser at UNRWA, told The New Arab: “Over 1.6 million people are displaced in the Gaza Strip. In UNRWA schools, we have 745,000 displaced people across 151 schools. Conditions inside the schools are extremely poor and challenging; we are facing shortages in food and water."
“The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip is severe, and there are huge queues at bakeries, which are still working, reaching kilometres long. Food supplies are no longer available and people are drinking from contaminated and undrinkable well water," Adnan told the media in a statement.
"Hunger and despair are becoming an element of anger," said Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of UN agency UNRWA, as people become frustrated by the lack of food available and by living in unsanitary conditions, and thus erupt into anger.
“The situation in the Gaza Strip is so catastrophic and indescribable. People are hungry and thirsty, and we are dreaming of being able to have something to eat all the time. Every day, when we get up in the morning, we seek any food that will keep us alive,”Ahmed Masoud, a youth activist displaced to UNRWA schools, in south Gaza.
According to international organisations, “80% of the population of the Gaza Strip needs aid.” An economic specialist at the Ministry of Economy, who wants to remain anonymous, told The New Arab, “Before the beginning of the attack against Gaza, 500 trucks entered the Strip daily through the Rafah border crossing. However, since the start of the Israeli war on October 7, only 569 trucks have entered the Strip."
According to Oxfam, "Over two million civilians in Gaza are being collectively punished for the world to see. Only 2% of the usual food has reached Gaza since October 9, 2003."
The scarcity of food in Gaza has taken a toll on the majority of its residents, with particular emphasis on vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the sick, and young children.
“My daughter is diabetic, and there are certain foods she must eat regularly to protect her sugar level, but now there is nothing suitable for her, no vegetables or fruits. Yesterday, she had a seizure, and her body was sweating due to her low blood sugar level,” a poor woman said.
She added, “All I think about now is my daughter. For us, we can bear it, but how can an eight-year-old girl understand these circumstances? The worst thing is that I used to go to Al-Nasr Children’s Hospital to follow up on her condition, but now I cannot follow up on her condition because of the Israeli tanks’ control of the hospital.”
A press release by the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor warns of a spike in the number of child deaths in Gaza if the world does not act quickly. Gaza has seen an increase in the number of children requiring medical treatment due to acute malnutrition over the past two days.
Before the ongoing Israeli war, 70% of the Gaza Strip's children suffered from varying health issues including malnutrition, anaemia, and weakened immunity. However, Euro-Med Monitor said, the number has increased to over 90% as a result of the unprecedented Israeli attacks.
Increasingly desperate conditions have resulted in residents in Gaza complaining of kidney pain as a result of intense dehydration. Due to its scarcity, some people have been drinking unclean water by mixing it with other things to drink.
“We stand for long hours in the heat until our turn comes to fill water, and we only take what is enough for one day,” Ayman Ghazal, 29, said. “Even the water we purchase doesn't even appear natural; it seems to be mixed with salt water and makes our stomachs hurt.
Palestinian Water Authority, PWA, stated that water production in Gaza now stands at only 5% of its total natural capacity, and it is expected to decrease further unless water and sewage facilities are supplied with electricity or fuel to resume their operations.
Last Sunday, the World Food Programme appealed for urgent expanded Gaza access to food supplies. “There is unimaginable suffering in Gaza right now, as parents do not know if they can feed their children today, or even if they will survive tomorrow,” Cindy McCain, executive director of the World Food Programme, said in a press release.
Mahmoud Mushtaha is a Gaza-based freelance journalist and human rights activist. He works as a media assistant at We Are Not Numbers, a project of the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor
Follow him on Twitter: @MushtahaW