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islamic relief staff and men in gaza palestine queueing to collect clean water in their water containers

Gaza under siege: ‘Life has become unliveable’

An Islamic Relief aid worker* shares how even simple tasks have become huge challenges in besieged Gaza.

It is day 33 or 34 of this crisis, I don’t know… I’ve lost count.

There is no sign of hope that we will see an end to this unjust and brutal killing. Our situation gets worse and worse as the clock ticks by. Markets are running out of every product; food is scarce, water is rare. You’re lucky if you can find any electricity. Nothing is easy and it feels like we don’t have a moment to catch our breath.

Life has become unliveable in our small enclave. I have 3 sisters, 2 of whom are staying in the same house as me right now.

Yesterday, I went out to see my other sister, who is living elsewhere in the city. I went to see her just in case we would not have the chance to meet again. People in Gaza have started taking risks like this. It’s dangerous to venture outside, but it might be our last opportunity to see our loved ones.

On my way to her place, I saw dozens of carts pulled by horses and donkeys. Many of them were transporting people back home from the market while others were carrying tanks of water to people’s houses. The lack of fuel has left a street once full of cars and traffic packed instead with carts, people walking and riding bicycles. It’s like a scene from 100 years ago.

Moments of comfort

“We don’t have cooking gas. I can barely get any flour,” my sister told me when I arrived. “I bake my bread with a fire, but it creates lots of smoke,” she says, gesturing to a clay oven.

Her husband thanked Allah, saying, “At least we have some food. There are people seeking refuge in United Nations’ shelters with even less.”

On my way back home, I started looking for a barber. It might seem like a small thing in this situation, but I’ve spent more than a month with long hair and the lack of water makes it difficult to maintain. It was a dangerous detour, but I told myself I needed to have a quick haircut.

Of course, there was nowhere open. There’s no electricity for a start and gathering in shops has become dangerous. The bombs don’t seem to distinguish one building from another, they just hit them.

Eventually we managed to find a barber who came to our house with his tools, including rechargeable trimmers. Every man and boy in the house lined up to get their hair cut – some neighbours even came over too to make the most of this special visit – and 2 hours later everyone had a new look.

We’d overcome 1 challenge, but it was on to the next.

Shower schedules

Showering. It may be an easy task for you, my readers, but it’s very complicated for all us Gazans that have been uprooted from our homes.

My friend, who is sheltering at a UN school-turned-shelter, told me he hasn’t showered in around 10 days. He has to walk 2km to take a cold shower at the house of a relative who managed to fill their water tanks.

In the house we’re staying in, we have to plan every step carefully. The first thing to consider is the availability of water, of course. So far, we’ve managed to refill our tanks twice a week, despite the rising cost of renting the generator to pump water into our tanks. There’s a lot of people in this house and we all need to coordinate with each other to take our showers.

Only 1 or 2 people can shower each day, though sometimes we manage to add a kid or 2 on top of that. If we have water, we need to start a fire to heat it first, and we only use 2 litres for each shower. When showering, we collect the used water and reuse it to flush the toilets.

It’s a big change from getting up in the morning, turning the water on and showering within 5 minutes. It feels like our lives have taken a huge step back in time. Yes, in the 21st century, dear readers, there are people who can’t shower, can’t flush the toilet, and can’t charge their phones. There are people who can’t connect to the internet and communicate with their loved ones. Right now, there are people living under occupation, their entire lives controlled. Israel can turn our power, water, and communications on and off, at will. It is totally unfair. It is inhumane, and it’s still going on without serious objection from the international community.

Something needs to change

Our lives could be cut short at any moment. So many of us are being killed. My story could end, but you can carry it on. You can keep speaking about us Palestinians, about our hopes, our aspirations, our land, our food, our sea, our resilience.

We are human beings, and we deserve to live. Yet, the conditions we’re going through are inhumane.

When an internally displaced person needs to wait for 3 hours to buy food to feed their children, when they have to queue for 2 hours to use a toilet, walk 2km to shower, walk another 2km to get clean water, sleep without safety — and they consider themselves lucky to survive until the next morning — there is something wrong with the world and something needs to change.

I pray that I will write to you to tell you that I have lived and have returned to my home. I pray that I can meet you in Gaza, introduce you to our people and that you can see the miracles they’ve achieved, you can try our food and you can see how we’ve survived.

Islamic Relief is on the ground in Gaza, serving as a lifeline to families suffering in this crisis. Please help us continue this vital work: Give to our Palestine Emergency Appeal now.

*This blog is anonymised to protect the safety and security of our colleague.

Editor’s note: This blog was submitted amid a fast-changing situation on the ground, which has since continued to deteriorate. This information was correct as of the morning of Thursday 11 November.

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