Conflict, lack of fuel and sanitation threaten lives of people in Gaza

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The United Nations set up a tent camp in southern Gaza for people displaced by conflict in the northern parts of the territory. Ibrahim Alotla/Alef Multimedia/Oxfam

Oxfam joins other humanitarian groups urging an end to the fighting.

In the southern part of the Gaza Strip, there is a city of tents where thousands of people displaced by the conflict in northern Gaza are seeking shelter. Sawan (not her real name) and her family are among them. They were first staying with relatives near their home in northern Gaza, but Sawan says it was not safe there and they moved to the tent city run by the UN several weeks after fighting started in Gaza.

“We had to wait for two days until they provided us with a tent,” she says. After setting up their shelter, meeting their other basic needs for has proven more difficult. “It has been quite challenging to access clean water,” she explains. “The water we manage to obtain is not suitable for drinking, and the communal bathrooms are in chaos, it takes us two hours to stand in line and wait for our turn.”

More importantly to this middle-aged married mother of six daughters, Sawan says people here feel vulnerable. “There is constant bombing in this area,” Sawan says. “There are no safe places. We could be bombed at any moment.”

What is happening in Gaza?

More than a month after fighting started in Gaza, there is little or no fuel in the territory and basic services like water, sewage systems, and health care are collapsing. Despite the challenges faced by humanitarian organizations in Gaza, Palestinian Environmental Friends with support from Oxfam was able to distribute 1,000 hygiene kits to people displaced by the conflict now in the southern part of Gaza.

The kits contain soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, laundry and dish detergent, and other items that will help people keep clean and avoid water-borne diseases, an increasingly serious threat due to the lack of clean water and functioning sanitation systems in Gaza.

Ongoing violence, lack of fuel, and restrictions on aid entering Gaza have created a humanitarian crisis for civilians. Oxfam is continuing to urge all parties to the conflict to release hostages and end the hostilities so humanitarian groups can assist civilians. “The international community must act collectively and decisively to ensure the uninterrupted flow of aid and the fuel required to deliver it, safeguarding the dignity and rights of all affected civilians,” Oxfam said in a statement this week.

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Palestinian Environmental Friends distributed hygiene kits to people displaced by conflict in the southern area of Gaza. Palestinian Environmental Friends/Oxfam

Calling for an end to the fighting in Gaza

Oxfam has joined with humanitarian groups across the globe to call for the government of Israel and Palestinian armed groups to agree to a ceasefire, and has asked its supporters to sign a petition asking the Biden administration to use its influence to protect the lives of civilians and pursue solutions that immediately de-escalate the crisis in Gaza and Israel.

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Hygiene kits distributed by Palestinian Environmental Friends included soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, laundry and dish detergent, shaving cream and razors, and menstrual pads. Palestinian Environmental Friends/Oxfam

An end to the fighting can’t come soon enough for Sawan and her family in the tent city. They hear rumors they will be forced to leave Gaza, and they are concerned about their future – but still have pride in their identity and homeland. “We were born here, and we live here with dignity,” she says. “We want to live and die here.”

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Tent city where people displaced by conflict in northern Gaza are seeking shelter. Oxfam has joined other humanitarian organizations to call on the government of Israel and Palestinian armed groups to agree to a ceasefire. Ibrahim Alotla/Alef Multimedia/Oxfam

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