| 21 February 2024, Wednesday |

Palestinians struggling to survive in overcrowded UN shelter in southern Gaza


In the overcrowded shelter in Mawasi, Palestinians are facing immense challenges in completing even the most basic daily tasks. The influx of new arrivals, displaced by the ongoing fighting in Gaza, continues to add to the struggles of those already there.
Mawasi, Israel said, is now a safe zone, an enclave along Gaza’s Mediterranean coast where waves of people fleeing the war can find protection from airstrikes and supplies for their families but there, rows of tents are stretched out over farm fields, with people trying to do everything to survive and get protected of the coming rain, the winter and the bombardments.
The children tell their dad, ‘we fled the bombardment to find bombardment.’ There is no safety, none whatsoever,” said Iman Skaik, a woman sheltering in Mawasi.

Most of Gaza’s population is crowded into southern Gaza, including hundreds of thousands who heeded Israel’s calls to evacuate the north and move to Southern Gaza Strip, to get out of the way of its ground offensive.
Israel first mentioned Mawasi as a humanitarian zone in late October.

International aid officials have warned that Israel has done nothing to create a true safe zone, and even the US, Israel’s fiercest ally, has indicated Palestinian civilians need more protection.

Risk of ‘additional harm’
A joint statement signed by the leaders of some of the world’s largest humanitarian groups, including the top UN agencies, Care International, Mercy Corps, and the World Health Organization, rejected the idea that Israel could unilaterally set up a safe zone.
“Without the right conditions, concentrating civilians in such zones in the context of active hostilities can raise the risk of attack and additional harm,” said the November 16 statement.

“Here in Mawasi, we thought there would be safety but there is no safety. We are still getting bombarded.” commented Skaik.

Poor living conditions
But in addition to the risk of strikes, the displaced living in Mawasi have to deal with the poor living conditions of the overcrowded place.

Nevine al-Kafarna said standing in line to go to the bathroom is in itself a challenge because it comes with a very long wait.

“The children sometimes come back after two or three times without being able to go to the bathroom because there are too many people,” she said.
People in tents also get little shelter during the rainy winter months, when temperatures can dip into the single digits Celsius (mid-40s Fahrenheit).

With the shelter now full, people are fending for themselves. Many sleep in their cars or set up their own tents.

Like nearly everywhere in Gaza, the aid is not enough for everyone and many are forced to buy their own food, water and firewood.

For now, the people living in Mawasi are simply trying to get by.

Some 1.5 million people driven from their homes have packed into UN shelters, houses with other families or even hospitals seeking a safe place where to stay.

  • alarabiya