3 November 2023 - occupied Palestinian territory

Stories from Gaza: what it means to be displaced

Hassan*, Save the Children staff member, sitting and cooking for his children

Hasan*, a father of four and Save the Children staff member, is sheltering with his family in a facility hosting over 20,000 people. He continues to assist other affected civilians despite the ongoing situation.

Photo: Hassan*, sitting and cooking for his children. In his words: This is how we secure food for our families. After 15 days without bread, I finally found this and tried to make something for the children other than rice. Here is his story in his words when asked:

What does it mean to be a displaced person in a centre right now? 

Displaced means there is no mattress or pillow. Your mattress is the floor or your car, and your cover is a sheet that has been sitting in a warehouse for years, it smells musty, and there is no way to wash it.  

Your pillow is the only bag of clothes you left your house with. You have constant back and leg pain from sleeping in awkward positions. Stomach aches and throat pain from the cold, and a headache from the anxiety. 

Displaced means there is no water at all. You do not wash your hands, do not wash your clothes. 

Displaced means there is no clean water to drink… you might have to drink contaminated water, full of diseases. And you might even die of thirst or from drinking the water. 

Displaced means that when you want to go to the bathroom, you have to wait in line behind 600 people until your turn comes. When your turn finally comes, there will be another 500 people knocking on the door for you to finish quickly, and of course, there is no water in the bathroom. 

Displaced means there is no cooked food, no bread, no food at all, except for a few boxes of cheese, which smells from the heat. No drink.

You go to the bakery to get bread for your family… you stand in line for seven hours, sometimes the bread might finish before your turn comes. Even if your turn comes, you are given just one bundle, not even enough for one meal - that is if you don’t get hit by an airstrike while you are waiting. 

Displaced means the loaf of bread is split between two, or possibly four; whatever it is, it’s never enough. The important thing is that you ate and that is a great achievement. 

Displaced means you look up to the sky 30 times every minute, imagining that a new massacre will happen to you, and the latest breaking news will be about you and your family. 

Displaced means taking a shower is a dream that is difficult to achieve. Taking a bath is an impossible luxury. 

Displaced means you always hear the bombing around you, and you see it, but you never know where it's coming from.  

Displaced means that there is no electricity except by chance or luck, there is no mobile phone battery, there are no calls or messages, there is no internet, there is no communication with the world. You may die and no one in your family would know that you died. 

Displaced means oppression, anxiety, tension, hunger, sweat, distress, delusion, sadness, darkness, anticipation, fear for the children, fear for the family, fear for the friends, fear for the future. 

Please, when you read the word “displaced,” give it deep thorough thinking.

Amjad*, is another Save the Children staff member and a father to three children, all under 12 years old. He travelled outside of Gaza a week before the conflict started. In his words:

My little daughter told me that she hugs the pillow, kisses it, and says: “Why did you travel and leave me here?” What can I do? My young son tells me: “You told me that you would travel on Thursday and come back the following week, why didn’t you come home? If the crossing opens and the war is not over, will you come back?. 

*Names changed to protect identity. Stories were collected on 1st November.


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