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Published on 9 November 2023

'Eating stale bread is better than no food at all'

It has been just over a month since Hamas’ horrendous attack on Israel which saw over 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals brutally killed, thousands injured and over 200 people, including women and children, forcibly taken into Gaza.

During this same period over 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including more than 4,000 children. On average more than 160 children are being killed every day in Gaza.

Gaza is in the midst of a humanitarian catastrophe. There has been a full electricity blackout since 11 October, following Israel’s halt of electricity and fuel supply. Half of Gaza’s hospitals are out of action due to damage or lack of fuel. The number of aid trucks entering Gaza over the past month is equivalent to barely a single day of supplies needed before the current crisis erupted. Drinking water brought into Gaza is only enough for 4% of its population and essential foods stocks are fast running out.

Around 1.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes which equates to nearly three quarters of Gaza’s entire population, with most sheltering in UN run schools while others are staying in hospitals, churches and mosques.

Christian Aid has heard from one of those displaced – 22-year-old Dima Ghanim who was forced to abandon her home in Gaza city and is now living in the Khan Younis training centre. The centre is the most overcrowded UN-run displacement camp, sheltering over 220,000 people, and only has one toilet per 600 people. Dima is a trainee pharmacist and volunteers at a pharmacy at a health centre in the camp.

Here is her story.

“I’m living in a shelter crammed at ten times its capacity. With so many people there is rubbish all over the place. The Khan Younis municipality can’t take the garbage to the dumps so they throw it near residential blocks and shelters.

A lack of clean water means that a lot of people are suffering from dermatological diseases and gastro infections. People are also getting sick from viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. However, there is a shortage in medicine and stocks are nearly empty.

We now call bread ‘the gold treasure’. People queue for three or four hours at the bakery for bread that needs to last for at least three days.

- Dima Ghanim.

But eating dry, stale bread is better than no food at all. To avoid the queues people are making their own bread by cooking on stoves heated with wood. 

People are also turning the camp into a market so people don’t have to leave and risk the danger outside. People are trading cooking pans, clothes, fruits, veggies and food cans.

There was this woman with her sick daughter who came to the pharmacy and needed a medicine that has to be administered intravenously but this is something that can only be done at a hospital. It was 7pm and the streets were dark and she kept running to the door whenever she saw the light of a taxi that could take her and her daughter to a hospital. I don’t know what became of the woman. She kept running after taxi lights. 

It hurts my heart that I’m a refugee again. I’ll have to tell my kids years later that I was a refugee in my own home. It’s absurd how this can be the case.

- Dima.

I won’t forget that morning when I packed my backpack and left my home. I kept staring at my room for a while, thinking maybe it will be last time I’ll ever see it. I tried to persuade myself that I was only leaving for a day and then I’ll come back. Then after a few days, I told myself I’d only be away for a week. But I’ve been away for more than 2 weeks now. I’m more afraid of getting used to being homeless than I am of death. 

Aircraft and drones constantly fly over our heads. Everyday there are airstrikes nearby. There was an airstrike just a few minutes’ walk away from the camp. It was terrifying and it sounded like it was actually inside the camp. Children were hiding under the tables

- Dima.

The other night I was dreaming that I was safe in a place far away from this chaos and woke up to the sound of rain and for a moment I thought the war was over. Then I looked at the ceiling and realised I was still in the camp. Worse still the rain had flooded people’s tents and sewage had leaked in. 

My father told me think of this as an experience that will make you stronger. If you can deal with this you can deal with anything else you’ll ever encounter in your life.” 

Amidst the ongoing violence, Christian Aid is supporting local partners in providing mobile medical and psychological care, cash transfers to people displaced in Khan Younis, and supporting the small Christian community and their Muslim neighbours who are sheltering in Saint Porphyrius church in Gaza City.

Christian Aid's Middle East Crisis Appeal