Ahead of a mooted ground offensive from Israel, starvation is being used as a weapon of war as bakeries remain the target of indiscriminate bombing and face critical fuel shortages.
*Heba who is currently at a UN shelter in Gaza spoke about the severe shortage of food and the queues people across Gaza are facing outside of bakeries.
“The situation in the Gaza Strip is very, very bad. People have been killed, may God have mercy on them, but the rest will die because of hunger. There is no food in the supermarket, no tinned food, no food. Regarding bread, we have to wait in line. We go at six in the morning and wait until the afternoon to get it. This is if you even manage to get some bread, of course. Apart from that, the water we drink is not suitable for human consumption.”
Acute food shortages have hit everyone hard, but ActionAid is concerned about the impact of food and water shortages on women and newborns. With women accessing less than half the recommended daily intake of water, and with food in short supply, pregnant and breastfeeding women are struggling to produce the milk they need to feed their babies and keep them alive.
Heba continues; “We will die anyway, but our children cry and scream because of hunger and thirst. We will die. Whoever has been killed has left already, and we will [also] die because of hunger, fear and pollution.”
An airstrike struck a bakery in al Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza yesterday, killing 10 people, according to a statement released by the Gaza government press office. UNOCHA reports that since October 20th, ten bakeries have been struck and destroyed and three have been forced to shut down due to lack of fuel. Unless fuel is delivered many more will have to shut in the next few days.
Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine, said: “The situation in Gaza is nothing short of a complete catastrophe. With over 2 million people in urgent need of food, it is completely barbaric to see bakeries under bombardment as civilians line up every day to get food for their families. Those who survive the bombings may die from starvation instead.
Bakeries are the bedrock that keeps Palestinian society running, but many have run out of fuel to make bread. Everyday hundreds of people line up outside of bakeries waiting long hours and risking their lives to put bread on the table for their starving families. Food is a basic human right, not a weapon of war. We should be clear: indiscriminate attacks on bakeries, hospitals, and schools’ amount to a gross violation of International Humanitarian Law.”
Yesterday, Oxfam analysis of UN data found that just 2% of food that would have been delivered since the total blockade of Gaza began on the 9 October has entered across the Rafah border. Of the 62 trucks that have crossed the border until the 24 October, under half of those have included food – this small amount falls far short of the huge needs on the ground. Before the crisis began, over 500 trucks a day crossed the Rafah crossing to provide vital supplies. Flour has been part of previous aid deliveries but until bakeries have power and a steady supply of running water, bakers are unable to make bread.
Riham continues; “Over the last 24 hours, politicians from the UK and the US have been calling for so-called ‘humanitarian pauses’ to allow in much-needed aid. While we welcome this as a first step, we should be clear: a ceasefire is needed. Only through a permanent ceasefire of hostilities can aid be reliably delivered into Gaza.”
Sabine, who was displaced from her home and is currently sheltering in a school in the south of Gaza, gave birth to her son seven days ago and says that neither of them have food or water to drink. She says: “I gave birth during war, in an atmosphere and circumstances that only God knows about. Here there is no water, there is no food, there is nothing to drink, and there is no place to shelter the child…We do not have nappies, milk, or anything.
“The aid is very, very little that reaches us. We have been here for almost five days, and we have no bread. No one has brought us bread or anything. Our situation is very, very bad. What did my child do wrong who is only a week old and has no milk or anything to drink?” My son’s body has slowly begun to appear yellow due to the lack of breastfeeding. What did my child do wrong?”
Over the coming days, unless fuel is included in aid convoys coming into Gaza, bakeries that are struggling to stay open will be forced to close their doors.
For more information and interviews with ActionAid spokespeople, please contact: Tim Brunero, 0405 285 547 / [email protected]