Seeking refuge - a story from the humanitarian crisis in Gaza

As a result of the Israeli military operation, thousands of people in the north and east of the Gaza Strip have fled their homes and are now seeking refuge in UN schools in Gaza City. People are living in dire conditions and are in need of urgent humanitarian aid.

Mohammed Ali, Media and Advocacy researcher in Gaza met with people seeking shelter in UN schools. Here is what he saw and heard. *The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Oxfam.

Classrooms in Gaza have turned into people’s homes. They use the windows to hang their wet clothes. Photo: Mohammed Ali/ Oxfam

This is one of the UN schools in Gaza city. Dozens of families who fled their homes with just the clothes on their backs have come here in search of somewhere to live. Either  their homes have been destroyed, or they are in search of a secure place to protect them from Israeli shelling.

The people here have become internally displaced and are mostly dependent on humanitarian aid.

Most of the families here spend their time in the schoolyard. Classrooms have turned into people’s homes. They use the windows to hang their wet clothes.

 

 

Um Mohammed Al Toum is 46 years old; she fled her home with her 12 children and came to this UN school. Photo: Mohammed Ali/ Oxfam

Um Mohammed Al Toum is 46 years old; she fled her home with her 12 children and came to this UN school.

We are so scared… our home was hit while I was alone inside. Luckily I was not harmed’, she said.

We have been here for about ten days, we live with almost nothing; we have lost our home. The situation in the north of Gaza in Beit Layhia is indescribable… no one can imagine how hard the situation is there… the area was burnt down.

My children are suffering a lot because they live in constant fear…we left our home to find security but even in the UN school we don’t feel secure. There are explosions all night. The other day three people got killed in this school while they were trying to get blankets to cover themselves.

 

 

Abu Sameer Al Toum is 77 years old. Seven families live together in this one classroom, all of whom are the children and grandchildren of Abu Sameer. Photo: Mohammed Ali/ Oxfam

Abu Sameer Al Toum is 77 years old. He is the father in law of Um Mohammed.

Seven families live together in this one classroom. There are 41 members, all of whom are the children and grandchildren of Abu Sameer.

We sleep on the floor. Recently we received mattresses and blankets to cover us during the cold nights. Can you imagine what it is like to sleep on the floor with 41 people? Not only that but we sleep with the sound of Israeli fire and explosions’, he said.

My message to the world is that we are a poor people, we want peace and dignity not war… I am an old man, and I want to live the rest of my few years left on this earth seeing my grandchildren happy and safe, not living like this.

'I don’t need anything from this life, I have had enough, but what I am asking for is for these children to have their lives, what have they done to deserve this?'

 

 

This boy is six years old; while he was playing, shrapnel entered his back and exited his front.Photo: Mohammed Ali/ Oxfa

This boy is six years old; he is from the Al Zayotun neighbourhood in the east of Gaza City. While he was playing, he was hit by shrapnel . It entered his back and exited his front.

‘We were playing in front of my home with other children, when the area was shelled by the Israelis. Two of us were killed, and I was injured,’ he said.

‘I am in the first grade…I love school and I am good at studying… I miss going to school… I want this attack to end soon so that I can go to school again, because I want to be a doctor when I grow up.’

 

 

More than 200 children have been killed and hundreds of others injured as a result of the Israeli military shelling and air strikes. Photo: Mohammed Ali/ Oxfam

Medical sources say that more than 200 children have been killed and hundreds of others injured as a result of the Israeli military shelling and air strikes.

Over 50% of the Gazan population is made up of children. Many of them are now suffering from psychological problems as a result of living in a state of fear. Some of them have even been witness to other children being killed.

Many children will be in need of long and extensive rehabilitation programmes.

 

 

Families carefully go out in the three-hour lull in fighting to find some food and cardboard to burn so that they can cook. Photo: Mohammed Ali/ Oxfam

In Beach camp, Gaza city, families are carefully going out in the three-hour lull in fighting to find some food and cardboard to burn so that they can cook.

It is increasingly difficult to find food and the food that is available is very expensive.

 

 

Over 65 % of the Gazan population only have access to water for two hours, once a week.Photo: Mohammed Ali/ Oxfam

According to the Coastal Municipality Water Utility, over 65 % of the Gazan population only have access to water for two hours - once a week.

Power black outs and the lack of fuel to pump water has made the lives of more than a million people extremely difficult.

Raeed Abedallah, 31 years old, is a volunteer with one of the local charity organisations in Gaza city.
 
‘Every day we distribute more than 7 thousand litres of drinking water’

‘Many people have no water inside their homes to drink or to clean with,” says Raeed.

 

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