“Our last stop is Rafah”: Trapped Palestinians await Israeli attack. This is what the British newspaper headlines this Thursday The Guardian a long note on the inhuman conditions in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live, pushed and crowded in the south of the Gaza Strip, where winter has dropped anchor with no intention of moderating the cold.
Another medium, the French agency RFI, also headlined this Thursday “Gaza: in Rafah, 'in the middle of winter, in the rain, with summer clothes and sandals'”, to describe a humanitarian situation in Gaza that is becoming more dramatic every day, especially on the southern border with Egypt, where the Israeli government He ordered the army to prepare for an offensive.
Finally, the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders warns about the precarious water and sanitation situation in southern Gaza.
“Palestinians in Rafah, on the Egyptian border – previously a city of 300,000 inhabitants, but now hosts 1.5 million displaced people from all over Gaza– struggle to find clean water for drinking, cooking or washing. The living conditions of the inhabitants of this part of the enclave are desperate, as a consequence of overcrowding and the lack of drinking water, bathrooms, showers and sewage systems, aggravated by the cold winter,” reports in a statement accessed by Clarín. .
The fear of dying under bombs
The million and a half Palestinians trapped in Rafah have no way to escape an Israeli bombardment. The border with Egypt is closed to the south, and to the north it is a declared war zone, it is not possible to pass through, and the place is a desert of ruins and rubble, where incredibly there are still people.
According to the Guardian, the attack is on the horizon. A close one.
Garbage piled up on the streets of Yabna, a neighborhood in the city of Rafah, southern Gaza. Photo: Mohammed Abed.
He explains that although Rafah has been hit by Israeli attacks throughout the war, bombings and Israeli troops have moved closer and closer to the citywhose southern boundary is delimited by the mostly closed border with Egypt.
Fears of an imminent Israeli attack have been heightened by attacks closer to Rafah, including those of Israeli gunboats who bombed the western route into the city on Wednesday.
Describing the mood this week, Raed al-Nims, media director of the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza, said: “Everyone is afraid of the expansion of the ground operation in Rafah.”
While the population fears dying buried under the demolition of the bombings, life is impossible.
Youssef Al-Khishawi, an MSF water and sanitation agent, oversees the distribution of water for IDPs. Photo: Mohammed Abed.
According to Doctors Without Borders, the lines to get water are so long that they can be seen from afar.
Son hundreds of people of all ages, most with their characteristic yellow or blue 40-liter drums. Some live in tents near the tanker truck that drew the crowds to this point in Rafah.
Others live in shelters several kilometers away, and They have brought wheelchairs, handcarts, shopping carts and even strollers to bring the precious and vital resource to their refuges.
“A visually impaired man has come with his little daughter: the girl goes in front and her father carries the water. They walked two kilometers to get here, since there is no drinking water in Al-Mawasi, the coastal area where they live,” relates.
Displaced Palestinian women wash clothes and dishes in buckets outside their tents. Photo: Mohammed Abed.
Since the war in Gaza began four months ago, little infrastructure has been spared from the almost incessant airstrikes that have hit the enclave, including water pipelines. According to Unicef, at least half of Gaza's water and sanitation facilities have been destroyed or damaged, while UNWRA reports that around 70% of Gaza's population drink salinized or contaminated water
Palestinians in Rafah go to great lengths to find clean water for drinking, cooking or washing. The living conditions of the inhabitants of this part of the enclave They are desperate, as a consequence of overcrowding and the lack of drinking water, toilets, showers and sewage systems, conditions further aggravated by the cold winter.
Flu, skin diseases, diarrhea
“We have observed that due to lack of clean water for drinking or other uses, patients suffer intestinal disorders. Besides the flu virus circulates widely“explains Mohammad Abu Zayed, health promotion officer for Doctors Without Borders (MSF). “Lately, we have also seen that children suffer from skin rashes due to lack of clean water to clean up.”
Other health risks are dehydration and hepatitis A. “Lack of clean water can cause many diseases related to water quality, such as diarrhea and skin diseases, but just not having enough water can also cause dehydration,” explains Marina Pomares, MSF medical officer in Gaza. . Cooking and personal hygiene are also affected, increasing the risk of infection.
Displaced Palestinian children fill their drinking water bottles in the southern Gaza neighborhood of Al-Shaboura. Photo: Mohammed Abed.
“The effects are worse in childrenwho have a weaker immune system than adults and are more exposed to diseases and allergies,” he adds.
RFI journalists Rami Al Meghari, from the Rafah displaced persons camps, and Jerusalem correspondent Sami Boukhelifa, notice a similar picture with the aggravating factor that the population is not prepared to face winter.
“For children to shower, we have to pay a lot of money; for them to eat, we also have to pay. We live in poverty, there are germs and bacteria everywhere. There are only common toilets. We had to buy a tent. We paid a lot of money for her,” says Faten, her mother.
Faten, along with her husband, two sons and daughter, are originally from Khan Yunis. After an attack destroyed her home, they found refuge in the southern Gaza Strip, in the makeshift camps where the displaced are crowded, in Rafah, she explains.
“Our lives have changed so much… I have never cooked outside over a fire. Now I have to do it. The food is full of dirt and ashes. Plus, when we left the house, it was hot. Now we are in the middle of winter, in the rain, in summer clothes and sandals. “The children suffer from the cold.”
With information from RFI and Doctors Without Borders