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Published on 26 April 2024

'People in Rafah can do nothing but await their fate'

After more than 200 days of war, Gaza is in ruins and the death toll is unimaginable.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed and another are 7,000 missing - presumed dead or buried under the rubble.

At least 14,500 children have been killed and UNICEF estimates that a child is killed or injured in Gaza every 10 minutes.

Constant Israeli bombardment has destroyed 60% of homes, forcing around 75% of the people in Gaza, around 1.7 million, to flee their homes. Most now live in squalor in the southern city of Rafah.

Aid continues to be blocked, and the number of aid trucks entering Gaza is less than half of pre-war levels. Food has become so scarce that over a million people – around half the population of Gaza - are facing famine.

Image credits and information i
Scale of the crisis in Gaza on 23 April 2024 - the 200th day of the conflict
200 days of war in Gaza

Christian Aid’s longstanding Irish Aid-funded partner, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), has continued to monitor, document and report human rights abuses and possible war crimes occurring in Gaza. Gathering such evidence will be crucial to ensure future accountability, safeguarding the rights of victims, and pursuing justice.

Christian Aid heard from three colleagues from PCHR, themselves displaced in southern Gaza, about the staggering scale of the humanitarian crisis.

Food crisis

'A large portion of the population only eats one meal a day. Most people rely on canned food provided by humanitarian organizations,' said Abed Alhalim Abu Samra, Head of PCHR’s training unit.

'As for vegetables and fruits, even those with money cannot afford to buy them due to high prices and the lack of cash,' he added.

A large portion of the population only eats one meal a day.

- Abed.

Recent research from Christian Aid found food prices in Gaza have sky-rocketed. In Rafah, onions cost 50 times their pre-war price, while leafy vegetables are 25 times more expensive.

The lack of food is taking a severe toll on people’s health, according to Mohamed Abuhashem, a researcher with PCHR.

'Some families survive by sharing two small 250g cans of beans. Most people have lost a significant amount of weight and children are showing symptoms of malnutrition. People who need to follow a special diet for their health are dying due to a lack of fresh food,' Mohamed said.

Medical emergency

The targeting of hospitals and killing of health workers is a war crime, however, more than 150 attacks on health facilities have left 26 hospitals out of operation. Nearly 500 medical staff have been killed since the start of the conflict.

With nearly 80,000 people injured and thousands lacking vital medicine because of Israel’s restrictions the situation is particularly dire for those requiring urgent medical help.

The health situation is disastrous.

- Yousef.

'The health situation is disastrous', said PCHR field worker Yousef Ibrahim. 'The main government Al Najjar hospital has no intensive care unit and the dialysis ward provides care to 600 patients despite only having capacity for 100.'

Mohamed described the extent of difficulties facing patients in desperate need of treatment. He said: 'Many surgeries are performed without anaesthesia. Injured people are treated in hospital aisles and without proper sterilization. People have to queue for many hours to get a chance to be examined by a doctor. Pregnant women are suffering the most.'

This is why there is 'a need to establish field hospitals and bring in specialized medical teams to treat patients, the injured, and those with chronic diseases' according to Abed.

No safety in Rafah

1.5 million people are now in Rafah, five times its original population. However, it has not proven to be a safe haven.

Life and death have become two sides of the same coin.

- Mohamed.

'Rafah is under heavy fire every day. Life and death have become two sides of the same coin. Those living in tents are the most vulnerable as they face the hazard of falling debris. One recent strike killed 19 people, including 14 children,' said Mohamed.

'Israeli forces intensified their bombardment in April. There is no way to feel safe,' added Yousef.

Fear of a ground invasion

The threatened full scale ground invasion of Rafah by the Israeli army is weighing heavily on people’s minds. It is estimated that the offensive would force 800,000 people to flee again.

'The fact is there is literally no place to go since most of the houses and buildings in Khan Yunis City and central Gaza have been destroyed. Evacuating Rafah is unfeasible and would make the already dire situation unbearable,' Mohamed said.

Despite these realities, some people are already choosing to leave Rafah.

'People have already started moving towards the already crowded areas of Mawasi (an area of Gaza along the coast). Some families have even returned to the ruins of their homes despite the dangers,' said Abed. '

People prefer to live in the rubble of their destroyed homes than stay in tents that do not provide protection from the heat of summer or the cold of winter. People in Rafah can do nothing but await their fate,'
he added.

Christian Aid’s local partners continue to medical support as well as food, water and blankets to thousands of people living in shelters in Gaza. 

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Christian Aid's Middle East Crisis Appeal