Heavy rain heaps more misery on displaced Gazans

AFP , Tuesday 14 Nov 2023

At a Gaza camp for those displaced by Israel's war on the Palestinian strip, Ayman al-Jueidi tried to shift the pooling rainwater weighing down his makeshift shelter.

Gaza rain
The UN has said each of its school shelters in the south of Gaza is now packed with some 6,000 displaced people. X (formerly Twitter)


As he went along, the Palestinian stopped to catch a few drops in his mouth and splash a little on himself.

Like many others caught in the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza, he had not showered for days.

The war has displaced almost 1.6 million people, according to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, leaving hundreds of thousands living in cramped shelters with little food and insufficient water.

But on Tuesday those in the south woke up to yet another scourge: rain soaking their meagre belongings and threatening to bring waterborne diseases as it gathers in stagnating puddles.

"We are completely soaked, all of our clothes are soaked, our mattresses, our blankets too, even a dog could not live like this," said Jueidi, who has set himself up in the courtyard of a UN school in Rafah at the southern extremity of the Gaza Strip.

Those with access to waterproof sheeting are shoring up their makeshift homes. Others are using plastic bags to strengthen their defences against the rain.

Soaked clothes, sick children

"My children's clothes are drenched and I have nothing for them to change into, they will get sick," said Jueidi, wearing only a thin t-shirt as the weather turned chilly.

"Where will we sleep? We haven't eaten anything for three days."

UNRWA gives the family "cans of food and biscuits, but our children are never full, we need bread", he said.

"We had no water, and then suddenly we were drowned," said Souha Hassan, who has lived under a tent for a little over a month now, when Israeli bombardment first rained down on the Palestinian territory, killing more than 11,200 people, many of them women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The UN has said each of its school shelters in the south of Gaza is now packed with some 6,000 displaced people.

UN officials said 125 people were sharing each toilet in the beleaguered south, with more than 700 sharing each shower.

Fuel crisis

The UN has warned of an impending cholera crisis stemming from a lack of fuel, which it has said will bring its aid operations to a halt by Wednesday.

Potable water can no longer be trucked in, sewage pumps cannot be fuelled, and hospitals relying on generators are starting to shut down.

"In the next 48 hours, it just comes to a halt, there's nothing that we can do," said UNRWA's Gaza chief Thomas White.

"That's the reality of an aid operation that's being strangled of resources to serve people in need."

Hassan feared the worst is yet to come. "We don't have any winter clothes because we left our homes without anything and now all our things are soaked," she said.

"And this is only the beginning. What will happen in the winter, when the rain will be stronger still? Our children are already weak because they don't eat enough, it will be terrible."

Around her, despite the risks, some people tried to make use of the rain. One man collected water pouring out of gutters.

Another sought to block a trickle of water falling on a woman baking bread over a small wood fire.

In the Gaza Strip, completely besieged by Israel, bags of flour are now selling for some $200.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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