UN-run shelters in Gaza are so crowded that it is impossible to count the people needing food, water, medicine and other basics, administrators say, as more fighting and bombardments continue to arrive.
“It is a terrible, terrible situation. There is no room even to sleep on the floor. There is one toilet for 700 or 800 people. No bread, no stoves for cooking. We are drinking irrigation water,” one UN official at a compound in the southern city of Khan Younis told the Guardian on Monday night.
“No one can get an accurate number of IDPs [internally displaced persons] here. We know nothing about what happens outside. Everyone is just concentrating on survival,” said the official, who was not authorised to speak to the media.
With a conflict that began with Hamas’s murderous assault on southern Israel on 7 October now entering a second month, the humanitarian toll from Israel’s attack on the territory has been enormous. The Hamas-run health authority has said 10,022 people have died in Gaza, including 4,104 children. Hamas’s attack left 1,400 Israelis dead.
Nur Hatib, 33, a kindergarten teacher, said everyone in the compound, a vocational training centre that now houses about 25,000 people, was terrified by the continuing bombardment in Gaza. The constant noise of airstrikes and reports of attacks close to shelters have sown panic.
“Of course we are frightened. We have our babies and children with us. Every parent in the world wants to protect their children and we cannot,” Hatib said. “My six-year-old daughter wants to know when she will go home so she can go back to reading and writing, which she loves. I try to give her hope and I say, ‘Of course you will go back to school,’ but I don’t know how this will be possible.”
A 37-year-old dentist who helps to run a basic primary healthcare station in the compound said she and others felt “totally lost”. “We have no homes. All the city is destroyed. Where will we go even if there is a ceasefire? We have lost everything and feel we have been abandoned here,” she said, requesting anonymity for security reasons.
Her healthcare station was struggling to cope. “It is very horrible. [It] is so crowded, and garbage is everywhere, and flies and insects. There are lots of infectious diseases now – skin and stomach problems. It is very hard for the mothers with newborns,” she said. “A lot of people are coming here with fractures or burns or just are shocked by what they have seen. Some have amputated legs and hands. I cannot say how horrible is this disaster. I never could dream such a nightmare.” [Continue reading…]