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Palestinians need ceasefire amid impending famine and continuing war

Oxfam InuruID 369372 Ameera - Rafah
After Ameera’s home was destroyed by fighting in Gaza, she borrowed pots from neighbors, and prepares Palestinian couscous over a wood fire. Alef Multimedia/Oxfam

Oxfam and partners continue to deliver assistance for Palestinians enduring conflict, while advocating for a ceasefire, the return of all hostages, and full humanitarian access to Gaza.

When the war in Gaza broke out in 2023, Ameera and her husband and children fled their home in Khan Younis for Rafah in southern Gaza, where she is attempting to keep her prepared food business going. In addition to the dangers of living in a war zone, she says her business (started with help from Oxfam in 2019) suffers from high prices and lack of fuel, making it barely possible for her to keep making the Palestinian couscous specialty maftoul.

“Prices have jumped 10 times,” she says, and explains that she had to switch from whole wheat to white flour. And with no gas available for fuel, she is cooking over a wood fire now. “We work with whatever is available,” she says, adding that they share maftoul with others who are “homeless, displaced, and those who cannot find food.”

Famine threat in Gaza

Any kind of nutrition is welcome in Gaza right now. In recent months, lack of food in Gaza has precipitated high levels of hunger and malnutrition. Analysis by the Integrated Phase Classification, which monitors food security, indicated that “Famine is imminent in the northern governorates and projected to occur anytime” from March to end of May 2024. Almost all the 2.2 million population is now experiencing extreme hunger; 1.1 million people are experiencing catastrophic food insecurity.

Compounding the lack of food is an extremely dangerous lack of clean water and sanitation. People displaced by the conflict have been forced to drink dirty water and have also been exposed to sewage running in the streets. They are at risk of diseases such as Hepatitis A and cholera, which thrive in overcrowded places lacking proper sanitation. Malnourished people are especially vulnerable.

Duaa Abu Sabha, a married mother of two children, uses a hand-washing station in the Al Mawasi area of Khan Younis Governorate. Oxfam and Palestinian Environmental Friends have provided clean water, latrines, and hand-washing facilities for people displaced by conflict in Gaza as a means to reduce the risk of disease. Alef Multimedia/Oxfam

Monther Shoblaq, CEO of the Coastal Municipal Water Utility in Gaza says, “The entire water supply and sewage management systems are nearing total collapse because the damage is so extensive. There is no power to operate the water wells, desalination plants and the remaining wastewater treatment plants, and the sewage is overflowing.”

What Oxfam is doing to help people in Gaza

Since the beginning of the conflict, Oxfam staff based in Gaza have been working directly with 14 Palestinian organizations that are providing cash, food, hygiene items, clean water, warm clothing, and building latrines.

Despite the extremely hostile conditions, Oxfam and local partners have recently been able to carry out:

  • Quick-fix repairs on some badly damaged water and wastewater pipelines in Rafah, Khan Younis, and Deir Al-Balah governorates, providing 50,000 people with clean water and sanitation. In one area of Rafah, more than 200 yards of new pipelines were fitted.
  • Installation of five solar-powered desalination units to provide clean drinking water (three more units have finally been given permission to enter Gaza).
  • Trucking water to people in makeshift shelters in Rafah and Khan Younis.

To date, Oxfam's work on water and sanitation has helped more than 133,000 people.

Advocating for a ceasefire

Since hostilities in Israel and Gaza began in 2023, Oxfam has called for a permanent ceasefire, the return of all remaining hostages, and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid for civilians.

Oxfam America has also urged the Biden administration to stop arms transfers to Israel, and use its influence to bring an end to the conflict. Oxfam supporters in the U.S. are playing a role in applying pressure on the government: More than 50,000 have signed petitions asking President Biden to stop the transfer of weapons and work for a ceasefire.

Ameera confirms the need for an end to the hostilities in Gaza. “This is enough,” she says. “We just want to live in peace, like every other country. We just want the war to be over, for a ceasefire to take place.”

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