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Gaza: 'Anyone who survived since Oct. 7 should get a new birth certificate'

A woman in a head covering combs a child’s hair.

When this photo was taken, Zenab*, 33, was expecting her second child. Since the Rafah invasion, she's lived with her 3-year-old daughter Lila* in a tent in the Khan Younis area. All photos: Team Yousef Ruzzi/CARE

When this photo was taken, Zenab*, 33, was expecting her second child. Since the Rafah invasion, she's lived with her 3-year-old daughter Lila* in a tent in the Khan Younis area. All photos: Team Yousef Ruzzi/CARE

Nothing is normal for families in Gaza. Every aspect of their lives has been upended by the by the ongoing siege and bombardments, which have created constant hardships and repeated displacements, with about 1.9 million people displaced to date. There is no longer any ordinary life.

Life under siege means a constant threat of violence, desperation for basic necessities, along with an inability to remain in one place for very long. The wish to see their children smile or to have just a moment of peace has become nearly unimaginable.

Yasmin, Zenab, Basem, and Sara have each endured the war’s brutal impact on their lives in different ways. These stories, while unique in their details, collectively paint a picture of the widespread suffering and resilience in Gaza.


Medium portrait of a woman in black clothing with purple head covering.
Yasmin*, in the tent that serves as her family’s temporary home.

In northern Gaza’s Al-Naser area, Yasmin*, a 33-year-old nurse and speech therapist, lived a content life with her husband and four children —- until the war forced them to flee, not just once but over and over again.

Most recently, they escaped following the Rafah invasion, marking their sixth displacement. Today, Yasmin and her family live in limbo, navigating malnutrition and a constant fear of attacks.

“My children and I are skin and bones,” she said. “I wish I could somehow make them smile again.”

The day they left their home in October was particularly harrowing.

Their house was bombed, trapping them under rubble and leaving Yasmin and her children severely injured. Her son suffered critical injuries, with shrapnel embedded throughout his body and severe vision loss due to retinal hemorrhaging.

"It is so painful when you must leave everything behind."

Yasmin, a 33-year-old nurse and speech therapist

The last seven months have left her family physically and psychologically scarred.

“All my children are malnourished and hungry all the time,” she said.

A close-up of a child with scabs and wounds on his leg.
Yasmin’s son was badly injured during a bombing.

The family subsists on minimal rations—just two cans of tuna and a can of meat for the entire day. The lack of adequate water compounds their suffering, with only salty water available, which often leads to stomach aches and health issues.

Their current living conditions are dire. With no proper sanitation facilities in the camp they call home, Yasmin bought a bucket for the family’s use. Her days are spent in constant vigilance, ready to flee at a moment’s notice should the threat of bombing arise again.

Starting on May 7, the Rafah border was closed, cutting the flow of humanitarian aid to a trickle between that date and May 27. Last week a new crossing was opened at Karem Shalom, just to the southeast of Rafah.

The Rafah invasion and subsequent border closure have worsened their situation. The displacement from Rafah was the most traumatic yet, fraught with fear and uncertainty.

Yasmin with her family in their temporary tent home.

“Leaving Rafah, hearing the bombs fall and not knowing whether we would make it out safely was very frightening,” she said.

The closure has also made their food and medical crises worse, leaving Yasmin desperate for a way to treat her son’s failing eyesight and to feed her children.

Amidst the chaos, Yasmin clings to a simple yet profound wish:

“My biggest wish is to see my children smile again. I want us to laugh again! There is no joy.”


Medium portrait of a pregnant woman in black dress, with purple pattern head covering.
Zenab*, a mother of one daughter, was a month away from the birth of her second child when this photo was taken.

For Zenab*, a 33-year-old mother from Gaza City, the ongoing conflict has reshaped everything.

Displaced to Khan Younis and living in a tent, she faced a high-risk pregnancy while caring for her three-year-old daughter, Lila.

“One of the worst days of my life was probably when we first had to leave our house,” she said. “It was around 2 a.m. when our neighborhood was bombed. Everything around us was full of dust and fire.”

There are many thousands more like Zenab. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, and amplified by the UN, since the onset of the conflict 87,000 housing units have been destroyed, and another 297,000 have been significantly damaged. According to a UN report, at historic rates of rebuilding, it would take 80 years to restore the housing stock to pre-conflict levels. “Even with an optimistic scenario, in which a five-fold increase of construction materials is allowed into Gaza, it would take until 2040 to reconstruct the completely destroyed housing units,” the report also stated.

In the middle of the chaos, necessities have become luxuries, as clean water, sufficient food, and safe shelter remain out of reach.

“I have been pregnant since the war started 8 months ago. It has been the hardest time of my life,” she said. “For me, as a pregnant woman, there has been hardly any health care support, no proper hygiene and sanitation, and no suitable mattress to sleep on.”

“I learned of my pregnancy on the 4th of October. I had three days to feel happy, then the war started.”

Zenab*, a 33-year-old pregnant mother from Gaza City.

According to an April 30 World Health Organization report, In Gaza today, 12 hospitals are partially functional, while NGOs are establishing hospital zones and trying to import medication. Clearly, it’s not enough for mothers like Zenab, whose days are consumed with survival tasks, seeking water and food while shielding her daughter from the harsh realities of their life. She says Lila is unaware that their home no longer exists.

Zenab tends to a sleeping Lila in her tent.

“Lila keeps asking me when we will go back home,” she said. “‘When will I get to be in my room? When can I play with my toys again?’”

Despite the desolation, Zenab finds solace in the support of her family who remain, her resilience fortified by their presence.

As Zenab prepared for the birth of her child, her reflections were tinted with despair yet punctuated by hope. She yearns for the end of the conflict, not just for her immediate relief but for the future of all those suffering in similar circumstances.

“What makes me feel better is that at least now I have more family around me. They help me a lot and I am glad that I am not alone anymore,” she said. “My biggest wish these past months has been that the war ends. I want to give birth in peace and in clean and sanitary conditions.”

Update: On June 3, since this story was reported, Zenab gave birth to a healthy daughter. Due to lack of space in the hospital, she had to leave two hours after surgery.

Image of a newborn swaddled in a red striped blanket.
Zenab's daughter, born June 3 in Gaza.


Once comfortable with a good job and nice home, Basem’s* entire life has been uprooted.

Basem*, 48, once a government accountant, has seen his life and the lives of his family upended by war. With a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Basem had built a comfortable life. He was particularly proud of the house he built himself.

“The house we lived in, I built it with my own hands. Brick by brick, stone by stone,” he said.

Now, like so many others, he faces a reality where food and water are scarce, and safety is a distant memory.

“My children are hungry and want to eat. I often go days without eating at all,” he said.

The impact of the war on his family extends beyond the physical.

Basem with his children in their temporary shelter.

“The war has changed everything. For me, anyone who has survived since Oct. 7 should get a new birth certificate. It is like a new life has started for all of us,” Basem said, before describing his family’s narrow escape from bombing.

“Many people were injured, and we could not stop to help them. I knew if we stopped, we would get injured too. What a choice!”

Basem, 48-year-old accountant and father of two

The diet for Basem’s family is now restricted to canned food, and Basem has lost 66 pounds, with his children also experiencing significant weight loss, a testament to the grim conditions they endure.

“There is also no water in this area. The water pipes have been destroyed.”

To date, CARE has distributed 42,238 gallons of water – an insufficient amount, hampered by difficulty getting supplies into Gaza, exacerbated by the closed Rafah crossing.

The Rafah invasion and subsequent border closure made their plight worse. Once a place they considered a temporary refuge, Rafah turned into a landscape of insecurity and escalating costs, pushing Basem to the brink of despair.

“The Rafah attack hit us hard,” he explained. “We really didn’t think we would have to flee again.”

Despite the dire circumstances, Basem’s resolve remains unbroken. He dreams of a return to normalcy and peace, reflecting on the life they once had.

“I really hope that someday we can live in peace again. I keep thinking back to our home, to our house, to my job, to the market, and the schools next to us. Everything was nearby, and life was good.”


Sara* cooks for her family on a simple wood stove.

Sara*, a 36-year-old mother of four and a former mechatronics engineer who once ran a thriving business teaching children, has faced drastic changes since the onset of the war. Since then, living in temporary shelters and struggling with basic necessities, she recounted the stark transformation from a life filled with routine and comfort to one of survival and uncertainty.

“Before the war started, our life was good. Both my husband and I worked jobs we liked, we lived in a nice house, and our four children liked going to school and playing with their friends in the afternoons,” she said.

The war not only demolished her home but also shattered her family’s sense of normalcy and security.

“When we had to flee Rafah, it was the fourth time we have had to pack up and leave since the war started,” she said, describing the panic and fear that accompanied each displacement.

The journey to safety was perilous, marked by delays and the ever-present threat of violence, which left them uncertain of survival.

Since the Oct. 7 start of the Gaza conflict, more than 36,100 people have been killed, 70 percent of whom are women and children. At least 81,150 people have been injured, and over 10,000 people are missing.

Once a place of refuge, Rafah quickly turned into another chapter of hardship.

“In Rafah, we didn’t find a place to stay the first night we arrived. We moved into a tent with people we knew from Rafah,” Sara said.

The transition to tent living introduced new challenges, from environmental exposure to health risks, exacerbated by Sara’s pre-existing respiratory issues.

Sara and her family share a meal.

Nutrition has become a constant concern, with the family’s diet severely limited to whatever is available, which is often just canned food and pasta.

“My kids and I suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, so we always watched what we ate very carefully. Now, there is simply not enough food of any type, let alone fresh food,” she said.

The scarcity of clean water compounds their daily struggles.

“The lack of water is another big problem,” Sara noted, detailing the lengths they must go to secure water suitable for drinking and cooking. “Most of what is available is very salty.”

This basic task consumes significant time and energy, further straining their limited resources.

“Since we arrived in Khan Younis, we haven’t received any support anymore – we know the borders are closed and no aid is coming through.”

Sara, 36-year-old mother of four and former mechatronics engineer

Amid these hardships, Sara’s concerns extend beyond immediate survival to the long-term impacts on her children’s education and well-being. “My son, who was in second grade when the war started, now struggles with reading and writing.”

Despite the adversity, Sara finds strength in her family’s unity and resilience. “I am proud that our family sticks together, I am proud that my husband and children are helping me, and that we have somehow adapted to this new life filled with hunger, dust, and sand.”

A view between partially destroyed buildings, with the street filled with rubble and wrecked cars.
Scenes such as this one play out across Gaza, as conflict has caused immense destruction and displacement.

Aid is insufficient

With one border crossing now open, CARE and other humanitarian organizations are doing everything they can to move aid into the area as the situation continues to deteriorate. Currently, about 120 trucks of aid are entering Gaza each day.

To date, CARE has reached more than 354,000 people with humanitarian assistance in the form of water, hygiene kits, medical support, shelter kits and dignity kits.

Announcements of additional crossing points and initiatives, including the new ‘floating dock’, have given an illusion of improvement, but have largely amounted to cosmetic changes. According to UN counts, just over 1,000 truckloads of aid entered Gaza through all crossing points combined between May 7 and 27, including the newly built ‘floating dock.’ This is alarmingly low given the skyrocketing humanitarian needs of Gaza’s 2.2 million people, and much lower when compared to most other periods in the last seven months.

CARE continues to call for an immediate ceasefire, the return of all hostages, and the passage of unfettered humanitarian aid into Gaza.

* All names changed.

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