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Life in Gaza: "A different kind of suffering"

A Palestinian family living in the ruins of the Jabalia refugee camp, north of Gaza City. Photo: Grayscale Media /CARE

A Palestinian family living in the ruins of the Jabalia refugee camp, north of Gaza City. Photo: Grayscale Media /CARE

“We have become like dead people,” says Fouad*.

The war in Gaza forced Fouad and his family to flee their home, so he now lives with his children in a makeshift camp near the Egyptian border.

“Nobody cares about us,” he says. “Nobody is looking for us. There is no life at all.”

Almost four months after the devastating conflict began, over two million Palestinians are now living like Fouad and his family — hour-to-hour, at risk of hunger and preventable diseases as well as airstrikes, in precarious camps, shelters, or, at best, homes or apartments with deplorable living conditions.

Nearly 70 percent of the homes in Gaza have been destroyed or severely damaged, leaving nearly 75 percent of the population displaced, with many setting up shelters from salvaged material, or in sheds, or unfinished buildings.

There, exposed to nighttime temperatures that can get as low as 5C (41F), they are unable to adequately protect children, pregnant women, and the elderly from the elements or preventable disease.

Abdulkhaleq**, 43, a resident of a refugee camp in Gaza City, fled to the southern Gaza Strip with his family after their home was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike, leaving them homeless. Photo: Grayscale Media /CARE

“They came and gave me a piece of plastic tarp,” says Abdulkhaleq**, who was displaced twice from one camp to another, then on to Khan Younis.

“What am I going to do with a plastic tarp?”

Since the winter rains began in December, he and his family have been soaked again and again overnight.

“I’ve been bringing iron bars from bombed houses and assembling them, but I have exhausted all my means to provide cover for myself and these girls.

“On the day of the low-pressure system, the water came in here and drowned me, the children, and the mattresses.”

‘Days of hell’

Young children and adults line up for water in the ruins of the Jabalia refugee camp, located in a besieged area of northern Gaza. Photo: Grayscale Media /CARE

“I brought this pajama that I’m wearing and another one, so when I take this one off, my wife washes it and hangs it to dry,” says Ghassan***. “Then, I change clothes.”

Ghassan recalls that he didn’t originally want to leave his home, and so he and his family stayed for four days, until finally he relented.

“I was displaced from my house to the school behind me and from that school to Hamad,” he says.

“They asked us to move there, so we did. It was bombed.

“They asked us to head to the industrial estate. It is a safe place, they said. We headed to the industrial estate. We paid all what we had. We set up a tent and stayed in the industrial estate. Then, they dropped leaflets there.”

According to the Associated Press and other media outlets, the Israeli military has often dropped leaflets ordering the civilian evacuation of certain areas ahead of escalation.

“We were confused,” Ghassan said. “We did not know which safe place to head to. We did not know where to go. We went from Hamad to the industrial estate and from the industrial estate to a school in Al Sila town. I stayed there for two days. They were two days of hell.

“Then, we left the school and headed to Rafah. We did not find a place to stay in Rafah. We barely got out with our clothes.”

Finally, Ghassan and his family arrived in Khan Younis.

“My children spent their first day under nylon sheets. I spread blankets under them, and they slept. Once it rained, all our beds and clothes got soaked. All this was covered with water,” he says, gesturing to what’s left of his possessions.



Life in Rafah


A Palestinian child holds books and toys as she and a family member try to rescue their belongings from the rubble of their destroyed house in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip in November 2023. Photo: Grayscale Media /CARE

Experts warn the situation in Gaza is particularly catastrophic in the southern city of Rafah, where over 1.4 million Palestinians are crammed into a 40 square mile area, roughly a quarter the size of Baltimore, and where a new military incursion began on Feb. 11.

“A full-scale military operation in Rafah would have devastating consequences for civilians in Gaza who have endured more than four months of trauma, extreme hunger, lack of water, disease, and extremely limited medical resources,“ CARE said in a statement on Feb. 9.

With shelters already at over four times capacity, and, on average, 500 people sharing one toilet, diseases are placing lives at serious risk. According to UNICEF, cases of diarrhea among children under five have increased by 2,000 percent since the start of the war.

“This is a bad time of the year to have to live on the street or in substandard housing,” says Hiba Tibi, CARE’s Acting Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa “The nights are cold, and it is raining. Mothers worry their children will die of hunger, hypothermia, and diseases, even if they have so far survived the bombs.”

In Rafah for now, Fouad had lived through the bombing and displacement, but now he and his family are battling the elements.

“We woke up at 1 a.m and the tent was leaking water on us,” he says. “The entire bed was water soaked. This child is freezing and shivering at night from the cold weather. There is nothing to wear, no jacket or pants, nothing.

“Where will we go? We left everything behind. We left our things, our money, and our homes, and our businesses have been destroyed.

“There is nothing left. I feel like I'm in a nightmare.”


“I wish for the war to end and for us to return to our normal lives, that’s if we go back and find our homes in the first place. We want to go back and live in tents beside our homes and not in this exploitative situation.”

Looking at his children, he says: “I wish they could live a normal life.”



The risk of famine


Displaced Palestinians walk past piles of garbage in a makeshift camp in the town of Tal al-Sultan near the Egyptian border in southern Gaza in December 2023. Photo: Grayscale Media /CARE

Experts have warned that the whole population of Gaza, 2.2 million people, is now at imminent risk of famine. On average, people in Gaza only have access to two to three liters of water per day, a fifth of what is the minimum needed for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene in an emergency.

“I wish this war would end and this bloodshed would stop – the bloodshed that is pouring down on us,” Abdulkhaleq said.

“I don’t want destruction. I don’t want wars. I’m tired of these wars. Our life has been going from war to war, war to war. We are humans. I’m tired of war. I want to live a decent life like the rest of the world. I want to look at my children. I just look at them and see them. Here I am just sitting, and I wish I could feed them like everyone else, and spend time with them like everyone else.

“It’s enough, we have suffered enough. Our homes are gone, and our children are destroyed.”

As the conflict drags on, the living situations in places like Rafah and Khan Younis are becoming more and more untenable for families like Fouad and Abdulkhaleq‘s.

“People fight each other,” Fouad said. “If a truck passes by, people rush upon it like wild animals.

“There is no life to live.”

The catastrophic future


Palestinians living in the Jabalia camp have been displaced multiple times throughout the conflict and are living in dire conditions in tents and ruined buildings in December 2023. Photo: Grayscale Media/CARE

Humanitarian groups have expressed particular concern over the situation for women and children.

“90% of children in Gaza under two years are not eating a sufficiently diverse diet,” says Tibi.

“Their immune systems are down, putting them at further risk of dying from otherwise preventable diseases.

We increasingly hear of young mothers who are unable to breastfeed, as they are too malnourished and stressed from the impact of the war and blockade. We can only begin to imagine the catastrophic impact this war will have for years to come.”

CARE has called for an immediate ceasefire and the release of all hostages. This would enable full, safe, and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance, access to shelter, healthcare, food, water, and other basic necessities of life for Palestinians throughout Gaza.

“Life was not easy before,” says Ghassan. “We have been suffering all our lives, but this is a different kind of suffering.”

*Names changed

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