Resilience amid suffering: Nothing is normal for families in Gaza

Yasmin's family, Gaza

Image: Yasmin and her family © CARE/Team Yousef Ruzzi

14 June 2024


Every aspect of family life has been upended by the by the ongoing siege and bombardments, in Gaza. This has created constant hardships and repeated displacements, with about 1.9 million people displaced to date. There is no longer any ordinary life.

Donate to CARE's Gaza crisis appeal

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


Yasmin in her tent with her family, Gaza

Image: Yasmin and her family inside their tent © CARE/Team Yousef Ruzzi

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. “They are malnourished and hungry all the time,” she said.

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.

Yasmin hanging washing, Gaza

Image: Yasmin hangs washing outside her tent © CARE/Team Yousef Ruzzi

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.

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.

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

Amidst the chaos, Yasmin clings to a simple hope:

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


Dunia, Gaza

Image: Dunia prepares food for her family © CARE/Team Yousef Ruzzi

Dunia* has five children. They fled their home in Gaza City after their house was destroyed. Since then, they have stayed in countless places, and are currently living in a tent in Northern Gaza.

Daily life in a hot tent without clean water and sufficient food has been a constant struggle.

“I feel so humiliated by this war, by the hunger we feel, by the sicknesses we endure, and by the constant fear of dying.” - Dunia

But the hardest thing for Dunia is that she is unable to get treatment for two of her sons who have cancer.

Before the war, Dunia and her husband had worked hard to afford medication for their sons. They were able to ensure a healthy diet and make their lives easier while they received treatment for cancer.


Image: Dunia and her family share a meal together © CARE/Team Yousef Ruzzi

But now Dunia and her family are hungry all the time and she is devastated not to be able to provide for them or to get her sons the care and medical treatment they need. This is starting to take its toll on Dunia’s own health:

“I cannot think straight, like I’ve been shut down, and I get a lot of headaches. I also suffer from heart problems and high blood pressure.”

All Dunia wants is to be able to take a deep breath and be able to feel safe or hopeful again – for her children’s future, and for her own.

“I really wish the war will end soon, and that we can get treatment for our children. I hope that the world sees our suffering and understands that what this war does is starve us and let our children die of cancer.” - Dunia


Basem, Gaza

Image: The house Basem built himself is a distant memory for Basem © CARE/Team Yousef Ruzzi

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.”

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.

Basem and family, Gaza

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

Now, like so many others, he faces a reality where food and water are scarce, and safety is a distant memory. 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. But the impact of the war on his family extends far beyond the physical.

“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.”

The Rafah invasion and subsequent border closure made the plight of Basem and his family 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.

“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.” - Basem


Sara preparing food, Gaza

Image: Sara prepares food for her family © CARE/Team Yousef Ruzzi

Sara* is a 36-year-old mother of four and a former mechatronics engineer who once ran a thriving business teaching children. Since the onset of war, she has experienced a 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. The transition to tent living has introduced new challenges, from environmental exposure to health risks, exacerbated by Sara’s pre-existing respiratory issues.

Sara and family, Gaza

Image: Sarah and her family share a meal together © CARE/Team Yousef Ruzzi

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.”

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.

“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.”

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.”

Aid is insufficient

Saaed - aid trucks, Gaza

Image: CARE humanitarian worker Saaed checks an aid truck arriving from Egypt © CARE/Team Yousef Ruzzi

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.

Help CARE reach more people in Gaza - donate today

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.

How you can help

Our dedicated team in Gaza is working round the clock to help people who have lost everything. Please donate to our emergency appeal today to help save lives.

Donate today