The long shadow of starvation in Gaza

Cooking in Gaza

25 January 2024


Every day, Abu Mohammed goes out to find firewood to cook food for his children.

He and his family currently live in a makeshift camp in Tal al-Sultan, on the Egyptian border. Their home is a tent constructed from plastic sheets.

When the airstrikes started, they fled their home in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, leaving behind all their possessions, only to end up here, in another refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.

For the people of Gaza, like Abu Mohammed and his family who are suffering unprecedented levels of food insecurity, this search for food and the fuel to cook it is a daily struggle.

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Gaza - stove

Image: Abu Mohammed’s makeshift kitchen. Photo: Grayscale/CARE

80 percent

According to a recent report by the UN-backed Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), there are roughly 706,000 people in total across the world right now who are in populations experiencing “catastrophic” or “famine” levels of hunger.

Of those people, about 577,000 are Palestinians in Gaza. That means 80 percent of the total global population currently experiencing famine is in Gaza right now.

In Tal al-Sultan, when Abu Mohammed is able to find firewood, he sets up a makeshift kitchen to cook what he can – often just a thin pita bread or a pot of rice — however he can.

Food prep in Gaza

A Palestinian man cooks a meal using a wood fire due to the lack of cooking gas and electricity in January 2024 in the Jabalia refugee camp. Photo: Grayscale/CARE

Waiting seven hours for wheat

Nearby, Mahmoud Abu Sadiq and his family are making meals of their own

They have been displaced multiple times - originally evacuated from their northern Gaza home to this camp in the south.

A few days ago, Mahmoud was hit by shrapnel during an airstrike, but that didn’t deter him from waiting in line for over seven hours to get wheat to cook for his children.

It wouldn’t be the only long wait for him that day.

“We even have to queue for the toilet. There are no adequate toilet facilities here. We are all going to get sick.” - Mahmoud Abu Sadiq

Preparing food in Gaza

Mahmoud Abu Sadiq, 45, and his family have been displaced multiple times. Here, he prepares food with his family. Photo: Grayscale/CARE

Lives hanging in the balance

As conflict continues, ordinary Gaza residents like Mahmoud, Abu Mohammed, and their families have been forced to find new ways to survive.

UNICEF projects that child wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, could affect 10,000 children in the next few weeks.

Additionally, officials have warned that children in Southern Gaza are accessing only 1.5 to two litres of water per day.

According to humanitarian standards, the minimum amount of water needed in an emergency is 15 litres, which includes water for drinking, washing, and cooking.

For survival alone, the estimated minimum is three litres per day.

Queuing for water in Gaza

Image: Palestinian children queue to get drinkable water. Photo: Grayscale/CARE

“Children at high risk of dying from malnutrition and disease desperately need medical treatment, clean water, and sanitation services,” Catherine Russell, the UNICEF Executive Director, said. “But the conditions on the ground do not allow us to safely reach children and families in need.

“Some of the material to repair and increase water supply remains restricted from entering Gaza. The lives of children and their families are hanging in the balance. Every minute counts.”

Children in Gaza

Image: This Palestinian family, who reside in the ruins of the Jabalia refugee camp, is struggling to survive in January 2024. Photo: Grayscale/CARE

“An effective aid operation in Gaza — or anywhere else — requires certain basics,” the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said recently.

“It requires security. It requires an environment where staff can work in safety. It requires the necessary logistics and the resumption of commercial activity.”

The long shadow of starvation is stalking the people of Gaza” - António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General

At least 18 percent of all agricultural land in Gaza has been damaged as a result of the war, and the latest Integrated Food Security and Nutrition Phase Classification report confirms that the entire population of Gaza, 2.2 million people, are in crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity.

“People in Gaza risk dying of hunger just miles from trucks filled with food,” Cindy McCain, the WFP Executive Director, said.

“Every hour lost puts countless lives at risk. We can keep famine at bay but only if we can deliver sufficient supplies and have safe access to everyone in need, wherever they are.”

Selling food in Gaza

Image: Palestinian vendors sell canned food and charging cables in a market in Rafah. Photo: Grayscale/CARE

The United Nations report on hunger went on to describe the situation in Gaza as “catastrophic,” stating that much of Gaza is at risk of famine in the next several months.

Parents have been going without food to ensure that their kids have at least something to eat; where food is available, moreover, prices have skyrocketed, making it inaccessible even for middle-class families.

Cooking in Gaza

Image: Palestinian men prepare falafel over a wood fire due to the lack of cooking gas and electricity. Photos: Grayscale/CARE

1 in 4 households facing starvation

As the conflict passed 100 days this month, CARE reiterated its calls for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages, and urgent action to ensure access to healthcare, food, water, and the other basic necessities of life for Palestinians in Gaza, especially women and children, in a situation where one in four households is now facing starvation.

Children in Gaza

Image: This Palestinian family, who reside in the ruins of the Jabalia refugee camp, is struggling to survive in January 2024. Photo: Grayscale/CARE

A skyrocketing miscarriage rate

Nour Beydoun, CARE’s regional advisor on protection and gender in emergencies, told Jezebel that health care workers have reported a 300% increase in the miscarriage rate among pregnant people in Gaza since Israel’s attacks began three months ago.

“One hundred days of war have brought darkness and destruction,” said Hiba Tibi, CARE’s Acting Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “The suffering, especially of mothers and children, is simply unimaginable.”

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