“Our life here is like an endless nightmare. I wish we never came back.”
Rawiya and Riman’s dreams of motherhood were significantly better than reality. Living in tents made of used plastic bags and rags, with a few dirty and torn mattresses, that is all their family have now. Their children must endure the unpleasant smell of smoke coming from the fire their parents usually set around the tents to block snakes and other lethal reptiles.
The two sisters, both in their thirties, moved to Gaza after their father passed away and their uncles insisted they moved to Gaza and get married there.
A living nightmare
“Our life here is like an endless nightmare. I wish we never came back,” says Rawiya. “I have accepted reality but I feel sorry for my children who have been destined to nothing but distress.”
Their families are two of four male sibling families who live in dilapidated tents in the heart of a dense residential area in Gaza City.
“Our houses were demolished two years ago. We might be pushed with our children to live in the street if the land owner execute an evacuation order,” said Rawiya in tears. The tents lack the basics for a decent and safe shelter especially for children. They have electricity only for two hours a day thanks to neighbours who allow them a connection from their houses, and their only water supply comes from a broken public pipe.
For their family, as well as hundreds of thousands of other families living in Gaza, the food assistance the World Food Programme provides is a critical safety. Apart from their appalling living conditions, Gazan parents find themselves unable to meet their children’s basic needs such as food, health and housing.
Despair conquers hope
In recent months, the defiant smile most Gazans are known for has been replaced with a look of emptiness as people have increasingly exhausted all means to stay afloat.
Large numbers of families have been pushed deeper into poverty by Palestinian political infighting and the sharp decline in international assistance. Life is tougher than ever for most of the two million Palestinians locked in tiny, blockaded Gaza where electricity is off most hours of the day and unemployment and poverty edge 50 percent.
Interruption of WFP assistance in the unthinkable
WFP provides assistance to those most acutely hit by the lack of job opportunities and live on less than US$1/day; significantly below the national deep poverty line of US$3.7.
“Without food assistance our children would starve.”
With zero days of work, Riman and Rawiya’s spouses cannot provide any income leaving their families fully dependent on assistance. The sisters cannot imagine their lives if this assistance were to be discontinued.
Non-refugee Palestinians receiving WFP assistance are the most acutely hit by the lack of job opportunities and rely on less than US$1/day to make ends meet; significantly below the national deep poverty line of US$3.7.
With zero days of work, like in the case of the spouses of Riman and Rawiya, heads of households cannot provide any income leaving their vulnerable families fully dependent on assistance. “Without food assistance our children would starve,” both sister say in agony.
Humble resources, humble dreams
Rawiya’s eldest daughter, eight-year-old Nancy, has a passion for painting comics on her school notebooks and is enthusiastically happy to show visitors her excellent grades. Nevertheless, when asked about her wish for the upcoming Eid al-Adha, she does not ask for new colours. “I wish we can have chicken with rice for the feast meal,” she says without thinking.
WFP provides food assistance to 245,000 non-refugees in Gaza as through electronic vouchers for the majority and through direct food distributions to only 30 percent of the people we serve.
Food assistance helps poor families secure a portion of their daily food needs especially as their purchasing power is eroded and their coping mechanisms exhausted. To continue providing this critical assistance WFP needs US$13 million until the end of the year.
To offset the impact of reduced directed donor support, WFP Palestine relied on an unprecedented level of multilateral funding this year, including an emergency corporate loan from the Immediate Response Account. Multilateral contributions and direct support to the Immediate Response Account from donors such as Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Japan were instrumental in keeping operations afloat. The flexible nature of this support empowered WFP to continue and scale up its cash assistance in Gaza, preventing vulnerable populations from falling into a deeper state of insecurity and supporting an economy with 50 percent of unemployment.