Displaced yet again: Thousands of people are fleeing from Rafah

Palestinians flee Rafah

17 May 2024


As Israel continues its offensive on Rafah, the 1.5 million men, women and children who had sought shelter there are faced with the prospect of having to flee yet again. Many have already been displaced several times over the last few months and there is simply nowhere safe for them to go. Exhausted, starving and terrified – Palestinians fleeing Rafah have told CARE about their experiences over the last few days.

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Salwa: “We were afraid we could get hit any time”

Salwa's apartment, Gaza

Image: The building where Salwa is sheltering with her family. CARE/Team Yousef Ruzzi

"I evacuated from Rafah and it was not easy. We were afraid we could get hit any time. It was the fifth time in only seven months that we had to flee.

In the end we reached the Deir El balah area. I didn't find a place to rent, as thousands and thousands of people have fled here and all the houses and flat are full. You can see tents on the street, everywhere. In the end, one of my relative allowed us to use their top floor. It is still unfinished and we do not have any doors or windows. It is hard, especially as we are sharing this small place with 35 people, with my sister and her sons and daughters. They all fled from Rafah.

Thankfully, CARE helped us with a toilet as there were no sanitary facilities at all. I hope we will be able to get a second toilet, so women and men can use separate washing rooms. I am really grateful we are able to live in a building, even if it is unfinished.

People living in tents have to face reptile and snakes, it is incredibly hot and they have no facilities at all."

Yousef: “Maybe the place is safer than Rafah, but it resembles a desert”

Yousef, Gaza

Image: Yousef and his family in their tent. CARE/Team Yousef Ruzzi

"There are so many people here. I came here because a friend told me there is space to set up our tent. Some places where people have fled to are so crowded that it is impossible to set up additional tents.

"How difficult it is to feel separated from you and your large family. In order to protect our children, I went to the shelters and left my mother, father, and brothers in Rafah. Maybe the place is safer than Rafah, but it resembles a desert. It does not have the necessities of life, clean water, or health services. In addition, the place is not safe from reptiles. In the morning, I found a snake next to my tent. Next to the tent, in this weather, it looks like a cooking oven from the inside. It is very hot. Of course, there is no electricity.

"It costs a lot of money to get out of Rafah at the moment, especially for those who do not have a car or can share with relatives. Thankfully, the people who own the agricultural land we have set our tent up on are good people. They let us use their water. But it is not drinking water and we are afraid of getting sick.

"There are some market stalls around, but they do not meet the most basic needs. Most people were able to take some canned food from Rafah, but they are quickly running out of food now. The crossings are still closed and there is no new aid coming in.

If things don't change quickly I expect a famine situation here similar to what the North is already facing."

Farah*: “As a woman, none of our needs are met”

*Name changed to protect identity

"The apartment we are now living in is under construction. There are no windows, no doors. It's the top floor of a distant relative's home. We share a small room with 40 people. We have no bathroom. Whenever myself or my children have to go to the bathroom, we need to go downstairs to the owner's toilet, and share the facilities with all the other people. We often have to queue. This is very hard for the children.

“There is no place to clean our cooking utensils. We have hardly any food. Today I ate one bag of canned tuna and yesterday I ate canned beans. There is no gas for cooking and firewood is expensive in the market. Often we only drink tea and don't eat but one meal. There is no more aid being distributed and we have heard on the news that we are basically shut off from the world.

“My children are suffering from colds and coughs. There are mosquitoes everywhere, biting their little bodies. I feel exhausted, tired, unstable and as if life has just turned into nothingness. I cry every day, but reality forces me to pretend to be strong for the sake of my children. I can't sleep. There is no privacy and no place to rest. As a woman, none of our needs are met.

“I feel nothing because of the many worries, problems, fatigue, hardship, displacement, and the mountain of responsibility. There is no source of income, no aid coming in anymore, and no place to live a decent life.

It feels as if we are already dead, just waiting for the time of our departure from this unjust world."

We need a ceasefire NOW

CARE continues to urge the UK Government to do everything in its power to stop Israel’s offensive on Rafah. Only through the immediate implementation of a sustained ceasefire and the unimpeded entry and safe delivery of aid, can we start to bring peace and stability back to this region.

Water distribution in Gaza

Wherever possible, CARE and our partners are supporting the urgent needs of people in Gaza, including provision of food, safe water, medical supplies and shelter kits. So far we have been able to reach over 350,000 people in Gaza with humanitarian assistance.

Please donate to our emergency appeal so that we can continue to help those in need.

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