Gazans struggle to feed their children under Israeli campaign

By Mohammad Salem

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (Reuters) - Famine approaches slowly for Gazans, who spend hours in queues for a few ladles of cooked food and the chance to fill plastic containers with drinkable water after nearly nine months of Israel's military campaign in the enclave.

Sometimes there is nothing to queue for in the shattered streets and crowded schools that have been turned into shelters for the vast majority of Palestininans displaced by bombardment.

"We found no water, food or drink as you can see. We walk long distances to search for water that is not even available," said Abdel Rahman Khadourah, looking for somewhere to get water in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

Despite concerted international efforts, the global hunger monitor said this week that Gaza remains at high risk of famine, with about a fifth of the territory's population still facing "catastrophic" food insecurity.

On Wednesday Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza said a child had died from malnutrition and dehydration.

In a U.N.-run school in Khan Younis that has been turned into a shelter for displaced people, Umm Feisal Abu Nqera was sitting cross legged on the floor between mattresses, preparing a small meal for herself and her six children.

She cut tomatoes into a bowl, stirred a small pan of beans and crushed ingredients in a mortar and pestle. Her young daughters lay nearby, playing listlessly. Her husband fed a baby liquefied lentils from a bottle.

"If the charity kitchen did not come here for one day, we would wonder about what we will eat that day," she said. The beans came from the kitchen. Food prices in Gaza are very high and her family has had no income since the war began.

"We are living the worst days of our lives in terms of famine and deprivation," she said, comparing the family's existence before the conflict, when they were able to feed their children well and even give them pocket money.

"Today your son looks at you and you bleed from within, because you cannot provide him with his most basic rights and the simplest needs for his life," she said.


Workers from the charity kitchen this week led their donkey cart through the rubble of a destroyed Khan Younis street crowded with people on their way to a U.N. school shelter.

They used a paddle to stir two large vats of food before ladling out dollops of yellow lentils to a line of children queuing with pans to take to their families.

The war began when the Palestinian militant group Hamas sent fighters into Israeli communities from Gaza on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,200 people and abducting around 250 according to Israeli tallies.

Its military campaign has killed at least 37,765 Palestinians in Gaza according to health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave, and driven most people from their homes. Aid organisations have said Israel should do more to let in supplies.

Israel denies accusations it has created the famine conditions, blaming aid agencies for distribution problems and accusing Hamas of diverting aid, allegations the militants deny.

Standing near a water tanker on the street, Enayat Abu Hameed had filled three big plastic containers of water and loaded them onto a two-wheel cart.

"We wait for four, five or six hours to find water and then we go home," she said before trying with a young son to haul away the cart, its wheels sticking in the sand as sweat ran down their faces.

(Reporting by Mohammad Salem, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Philippa Fletcher)