With every single one of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants now facing crisis or worse levels of hunger, some are so desperate for food that they are grinding up animal feed to use as flour. Famine is looming across the territory, while pockets of famine are strongly suspected in the north, where it is extremely challenging for aid to reach.
None of Gaza’s 335,000 children under the age of five are getting enough nutrition, according to the World Food Programme, which risks stunting their growth and causing life-long health complications. Meanwhile some new mothers are so undernourished that they are unable to produce milk for their children.
Bisan, 29, a mother of six, gave birth to her baby boy after being displaced from her home in northern Gaza. She said: “I have difficulty breastfeeding my son. There is no milk, and he keeps vomiting. Prices are high...even the price of milk [has] risen. A tin of milk costs 70 or 80 shekels [£14.82 or £16.94]. I cannot provide one tin of milk for my son."
Only 15 of Gaza’s 97 bakeries are currently functional and all of these are in the south: there are currently no bakeries operating in the north. Hardly any food is available in shops and there is no fuel for people to cook with. People are spending hours queueing for food each day and yet often return empty handed.
Abeer, 47, a mother of seven who is currently living in a camp for displaced people after her home was bombed, says she is struggling to feed her children. She told ActionAid: “We only have lentils to eat. And even they are not available in large quantities. People began suffering from diarrhea, stomachaches, and abdominal pain.
“You cannot have lentils every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These children need proper food, don’t they? Shouldn’t they be able to have decent food? Resources are scarce and very expensive. I want to make them salad and feed them healthy food. But it’s barely available. [My] children are beginning to suffer from malnutrition, for they are eating the same things daily.”
Water is scarce. The average person in Gaza now only has access to between 1.5 and 2 litres of water each day for all of their needs including drinking, washing and cleaning. Only one of the three water pipes from Israel into Gaza is currently working and even the amount of water available at municipal wells – which is brackish and substandard – is down to one tenth of its pre-October 7 level, according to UNOCHA.
Abeer said: “There’s also shortage in filtered, clean water. We are using the same water for both cleaning and drinking, which isn’t safe to drink. Drinking unclean water is causing kidney and urinary tract infections. It is even affecting our teeth; we are suffering from toothaches because of the water.”
Suhaila, a mother who has been displaced multiple times and is now staying in a tent with eight other family members, her children and her mother in law, is also struggling to get water. She said: “We really need the basic necessities; it is difficult to get fresh drinking water. My son goes on several trips to fill only one gallon [with water]. We fill one gallon with fresh drinking water and another with water for cleaning. But it is a long way to get water, and it is also tiring. Sometimes my kids fall asleep without water because we couldn’t get any.”
Against the staggering and life-threatening level of need, the amount of aid entering Gaza – currently around 100 trucks a day on average – is wholly inadequate. And restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities on what is allowed to enter mean some critical items, such as water testing kits and chlorine for treating water, are unavailable, according to UNOCHA.
Riham Jafari, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at ActionAid Palestine said: “Every single person in Gaza right now is experiencing hunger and the situation is only getting worse. We’ve heard of families who have only had a single piece of bread to share among them for the whole day. Some people are so desperate they’re grinding down animal feed to use as flour. Many have no choice but to drink dirty, contaminated water and are getting sick as a result.
The most tragic thing about the acute hunger crisis engulfing Gaza is that it is completely avoidable. For weeks now, humanitarian organisations have been sounding the alarm that famine is looming, yet the number of aid trucks permitted entry into Gaza remains far too low. This must be scaled up, urgently, if there is to be any hope of averting a widespread famine in Gaza. Yet more aid alone won't solve this crisis – only an immediate and permanent ceasefire will prevent more civilians being killed by bombardment and ease the catastrophic humanitarian situation.”
In spite of enormous challenges, ActionAid is working with local partners in Gaza to provide food and other life necessities whenever possible. Alongside our partner Wefaq Association for Women and Childcare (WEFAQ), we have been distributing food kits to families in Rafah and also providing people with hot meals.
A donation of £45 could provide two weeks’ worth of food for a family including oil, beans, and rice, while £90 could buy a month's supply of food for a family of 5 in Gaza, including essentials like rice and oil. Please support our appeal here:
Contact the ActionAid press office on email@example.com or on 07753 973 486.