Weak from hunger

Children receive food provided by a charity in Deir al-Balah, southern Gaza. 

Omar Ashtawy APA images

Tharifa Hamad is in her seventies. Although she has witnessed a huge amount of brutality in her life, she has never experienced anything worse than the current genocide.

It is the first time that she has ever suffered from extreme hunger.

Tharifa stayed in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, for a number of months after Israel declared its war during October.

Yet in recent weeks, the situation became so serious there that she moved southwards.

For two months, Tharifa had to bake bread using animal feed.

“We had no other choice,” she said. “Otherwise, we would die of starvation.”

As they lacked fuel, Tharifa and her husband had to burn their own furniture and clothes so that they could cook a little bread.

Flour and other food items have been unaffordable – when they can be found in markets. A can of peas has been priced at $8 in the north of Gaza recently, whereas it would sell for only around 25 cents before the war was declared.

Apart from bread made with animal seeds, Tharifa and her husband have had to eat leaves from trees and paper. On one occasion, a neighbor gave them a little meat from his donkeys, which he had slaughtered so that he could feed his family.

For the few days before she left northern Gaza, Tharifa had nothing but salt.

“The salt raised my blood pressure,” she said. “I began to feel dizzy and I could not see clearly.”

“I didn’t know if I should keep eating salt and die of high blood pressure as there was no medicine in the city,” she added. “Or should I stop eating salt and die of hunger?”


Tharifa’s journey to southern Gaza was arduous.

As Tharifa was weak, her husband had to drag her on a wooden panel for hours on end. He had to stop and rest every so often.

Tharifa fainted in the last hour of the journey. Some people came to her aid and sprayed her with water.

When she regained consciousness, she drank some water and ate a few dates that people they had just met gave to her.

Tharifa and her husband were given more food when they arrived at Deir al-Balah refugee camp.

“My tears started falling when I saw some real bread,” she said. “I had nearly forgotten what it tasted like.”

She was able to eat sandwiches containing meat from a tin, cheese and hummus. “They tasted delicious,” she said.

Khaled, Ameer and Saad are three children whose parents were killed by Israel during the current genocide.

For months afterwards, they had just one meal per day. It consisted of fried potatoes – often potatoes that were rotting – or bread soaked in water.

They obtained a little flour when aid trucks managed to enter the northern part of Gaza. The flour was leaking from an aid truck.

It was just enough to bake a little bread – the first fresh flour-based bread that Khaled tasted in more than two months.

Major risk

Khaled took a major risk to obtain that small amount of floor. The truck from which he got the aid had been driven to al-Rashid street, southwest of Gaza City, on 29 February.

Israel killed at least 118 Palestinians waiting for aid on that day.

For a number of days, the children had nothing at all to eat. Their weights dropped drastically.

“I passed out from starvation,” Khaled said.

He was rescued by some neighbors who gave him sugar, some bread and canned beef.

Without anyone to provide for them, the children moved southwards. They did not know where to go, so they just followed others.

Along the way, they succeeded in meeting up with an uncle.

Eventually, they arrived in Deir al-Balah. They are living in a tent.

Adiba Abu Imsha, 67, had to leave her home in Gaza City’s Beach refugee camp during the current war.

She was staying at a school located in the Jabaliya area, when it was invaded by Israeli troops. Her husband was taken into detention during the invasion.

Adiba’s husband had previously been imprisoned for seven years by Israel.

Initially, Adiba remained at the Jabaliya school after the Israeli troops took her husband away. Yet she had to leave it when food ran out completely.

She fell during her journey of evacuation. A paramedic helped her and she tried to walk again but it was too painful.

As a result, the paramedic had to carry her on his back until they reached Deir al-Balah.

Adiba is taking shelter in another school there. Books from its library are being burned for heat and for cooking.

Her husband remains in detention and Adiba hopes she will still be alive when he is released.

“At least we won’t die of hunger here [in the south],” she said. “It would be better to be killed by bombing than by starvation.”

Khuloud Rabah Sulaiman is a journalist living in Gaza.