Deir el-Balah, Gaza – Um Nasser Al-Ajrami and her children are struggling to buy their essential needs every day since their displacement from Gaza City to the south of the Gaza Strip.
Until a few days ago, the 37-year-old mother of four lived in the al-Mukhabarat area to the north of Gaza City. But relentless Israeli air raids forced her and her family to relocate to Deir el-Balah in central Gaza.
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Um Nasser recounted the horrifying experience of losing the family home, where they used to live with her husband’s five brothers and their wives and children.
“I couldn’t believe we had survived the bombing,” she told Al Jazeera as she looked through diapers at a local shop for her one-year-old son.
After their home was destroyed on the fourth day of the assault on Gaza, they initially sought refuge with relatives in central Gaza City but later decided to move further south, in line with the Israeli army’s evacuation orders.
“It was a tough day. We all gathered and went in my brothers-in-law’s cars. We were terrified because what we’d seen till then was enough to make us realise the danger if we stayed.”
Displaced from their home, the family’s challenge now is the severe difficulty in obtaining food and water and the constant disruptions of electricity and internet services.
It is very hard, she said, to think of meals she can make without water for the more than 50 people who have taken refuge in her relatives’ home. The work that goes into doing this is relentless.
“The burden on mothers during these times in managing their family’s affairs and providing for their children increases significantly,” Um Nasser said.
Like others in Gaza, her greatest fear is that the war will not end any time soon. “We can’t bear the inhumane conditions we are living in. It would be a disaster if the situation continues like this.”
Warehouse supplies are running out
Abdel Halim Albanna, owner of Albanna Supermarket in Deir el-Balah, explained the difficulties he faces: “Never before have we encountered such intense demand for goods in our area.”
Albanna is struggling to keep up with the demand for essential items in his shop, as dairy products, bread, canned goods and milk disappear immediately from the shelves as soon as they are stocked.
He has to work non-stop, in spite of the imminent danger of being bombed. His biggest worry now is whether warehouse supplies across the Gaza Strip will run out.
Albanna estimated that warehouses could be emptied in as few days as five, posing an immediate and severe threat that needs addressing urgently.
Many displaced people have been forced to resort to borrowing and bartering to get what they need, Albanna said.
“The absence of internet and electricity exacerbates our challenges, as beneficiaries who rely on food aid cards from organisations like Oxfam, the UN World Food Programme and local authorities – we are facing difficulties in accessing these essential supplies.”
A short distance away, Umm Mohammad Rayyan, a mother of five, was picking through blankets and clothing at a second-hand shop.
They had been displaced from their home on Jaffa Street in Gaza City after the bombings came too close. They stayed in their badly damaged house for one night while they figured out what they were going to do.
Eventually, in response to the Israeli army’s orders to evacuate to the south, they made the journey to her father-in-law’s house in Deir el-Balah, taking only the clothes on their backs.
But Umm Mohammad’s challenges extend beyond clothing.
“We were in our homes and had our privacy, our lives, and the way we managed our homes,” she explained.
“Today, we’re living in a place that is not ours, and there’s this severe shortage of all the basics. Even if the war ends and we go back, we have nothing to return to, given the destruction of our homes. Reconstruction and rebuilding will require years of effort, and we are utterly fatigued.”
Fadia Malhis, a 51-year-old obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Ministry of Health, was sitting with a group of people at a charging station trying to charge their mobile phones and access the internet.
She normally lives in the Rimal neighbourhood in Gaza City but had to move to Deir el-Balah after the Israeli evacuation notice. Her daughter and grandchildren had come with her after their home was bombed.
The lack of internet makes it very difficult to communicate with the outside world, especially with her husband who is currently in Turkey and desperately worried about the situation in Gaza. To reassure him and try to keep communication going, she came to the charging station to talk to her husband through a complicated relay system.
“My sister in the West Bank is trying to contact me, and as soon as the connection succeeds, after many attempts, her husband calls my husband in Turkey, and my call is made through a speaker. That’s how I can talk to my husband now.”