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‘Inhumane’ conditions in Gaza as residents rely on soup kitchens for food, have little or no water

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(LONDON and RAFAH) — As the Israel-Hamas war passed the 100-day mark this week, the Gaza Strip continues to be devastated amid the conflict, with women and children said to be the majority of casualties — and those still in Gaza desperate for aid.

“I walk a kilometer [about three-quarters of a mile] on my feet, back and forth every day, every day, for my children to eat,” Maryam Al-Dahdouh, a pregnant mother of four, told ABC News on Wednesday at a soup kitchen in Rafah, in southern Gaza.

“There is no water, so we walk miles to get a bottle of water for the children. Four children, I am pregnant, and there is no food at all. I am a pregnant mother. This pregnant mother has not eaten eggs, milk or anything healthy for three months until now,” Al-Dahdouh said.

Since the Hamas terrorist group’s surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, that killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, the death toll on both sides of the conflict has been rising. More than 24,000 people have been killed in Gaza and over 61,000 others injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed and 6,900 others injured, according to the Israeli prime minister’s office. Israeli officials say 526 Israel Defense Forces soldiers have been killed, including 193 since the ground operations in Gaza began.

The IDF has said it is only targeting Hamas and other militants in Gaza and alleges that Hamas deliberately shelters behind civilians, which the group denies.

More than 60% of homes in Gaza have been destroyed, the United Nations said in a press release Tuesday. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that about 85% of Gaza’s population, or 1.9 million people, has been forced to flee their homes, many of them now living in tents in southern Gaza in very difficult conditions and reliant on the limited aid that is being delivered from Egypt.

“The sheer mass of civilians on the border is hard to fathom and the conditions they live in are inhumane,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ted Chaiban told ABC News in a statement issued after he returned from Gaza on Thursday.

The U.N. warns that with so little aid reaching those who need it in Gaza, famine is becoming increasingly likely.

“Gaza has simply become uninhabitable. Its people are witnessing daily threats to their very existence — while the world watches on,” Martin Griffiths, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said in a Jan. 5 statement.

“Infectious diseases are spreading in overcrowded shelters as sewers spill over. Some 180 Palestinian women are giving birth daily amidst this chaos. People are facing the highest levels of food insecurity ever recorded. Famine is around the corner,” Griffiths said.

ABC News saw those signs of hunger at the soup kitchen in Rafah on Wednesday. Hundreds of people lined up, clutching containers hoping for some food from the vats bubbling with pasta and soup, many of them children looking gaunt and hungry.

“We stand for a long time in line, and sometimes we come and find that they have not cooked anything and we wait,” Umm Mohammed told ABC News as she stood in line. “And sometimes we come and find that everything is finished and we go and don’t take anything.”

“Water is scarce and poor sanitation is inescapable. The cold and rain this week created rivers of waste. The little food that is available doesn’t meet children’s unique nutritional needs. As a result, thousands of children are malnourished and sick,” Chaiban said.

Among those children who are sick are Al-Dahdouh’s little ones. “Our children got sick, literally sick, all day sick, fever, vomiting, diarrhea all day, not a single one of them is healthy,” she said.

“UNICEF has described the Gaza Strip as the most dangerous place in the world to be a child,” Chaiban said.

“We have said this is a war on children. But these truths do not seem to be getting through. Of the nearly 25,000 people reported to have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the escalation in hostilities, up to 70% are reported to be women and children. The killing of children must cease immediately,” he added.

Two Qatari armed forces aircraft carrying 61 tons of aid landed in el-Arish, Egypt, on Wednesday, which was then transferred into Gaza, according to the Qatari Foreign Ministry. The assistance includes medicine for both Israeli hostages and Gaza citizens, as well as food, after Qatar and Egypt brokered a deal between Israel and Hamas. There’s been no verification the Israeli hostages have received this medicine yet, according to the Qataris. There are still 136 hostages held captive by Hamas, Israeli officials say.

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