“Without any light at the end of the tunnel”: Diary from Gaza
Wassem Mushtaha works for Oxfam in Gaza. He’s been sending us voice notes from Gaza telling us about his day-to-day experience since the crisis escalated.
Wassem Mushtaha in 2022. Image: Suhaib Jarrar/Oxfam
I travelled with my family three days ago and now no water, no food, no internet. We are more than 120 [people] in two [200m2] flats.
We are struggling with securing food due to lack of goods from the market, and the main issue is water.
My daughter Habiba told me, ‘Baba why we didn’t bring the schoolbag from our home in Gaza. How we will go to school if I lost my bag?’”
Wassem Mushtaha, Oxfam Saving Lives Manager in Gaza.
Today I went to the market trying to buy some items that we need. We managed to buy some canned food and we managed to buy some clothes but with low quality and high price due to high demand.
My daughter Habiba told me, ‘Baba why we didn’t bring the schoolbag from our home in Gaza. How we will go to school if I lost my bag?’ I was so sad when I heard this. And told her 'Baba, I hope we will return back to Gaza and we’re still alive, then we can buy 10 bags for you.'
Today is Wednesday, the 12th day of the war on Gaza. I left my home in Gaza 5 days [ago]. The situation is getting worse day after day.
[When I went] to the bakery I saw people sleeping in their cars as they were not able to find a place to stay in and also I saw people sleeping in shops, people sleeping on the asphalt in the street, without any blanket, without any mattresses. It was a very bad situation.
My son came to me and asked me, ‘Baba, I want to return back to Gaza in order to have my uniform that I used to wear when I go to the club to play football.’”
Wassem Mushtaha, Oxfam Saving Lives Manager in Gaza.
Until now we don’t have electricity, we don’t have water… we rented a generator with a high cost just to give us electricity to pump water for two hours.
My son came to me and asked me, ‘Baba, I want to return back to Gaza in order to have my uniform that I used to wear when I go to the club to play football.’ I told him that ‘it’s very difficult to go Baba, the situation is risky. Inshallah [(God willing)] we will return back and you will find your uniform and you will return back to play football in the club.’
At 6pm on the 13th day of the war. An airstrike suddenly hit a building very close to our place. It was [an] unbelievable experience. Over 30 children including my own started to cry and rush to the basement floor with their mothers, and try to protect themselves. In such a situation we couldn’t help but worry about our safety and what might happen next.
We are looking for ceasefire, we are looking for peace, we are looking to live in dignity.
My son told me that ‘my dream Baba is to have a shower.’ Do you imagine? This is the dreams of our children now, is to have a shower.”
Wassem Mushtaha, who works for Oxfam in Gaza.
On the 17th day of Gaza war our situation remains unchanged and the humanitarian crisis has expanded to affect all sectors and communities.
Today we received distressing news that most private water supplies upon whom our community relies will cease providing us with water due to fuel shortage.
The water we currently possess is insufficient to meet our basic needs and will be depleted within the next 10 hours leaving us deeply concerned about how we will manage our lives without water.
Furthermore, our food supplies have become severely limited, forcing us to rely on a few items of canned goods. Fuel and water prices have doubled, making them accessible only through the black market.
On the 21st day of Gaza war…after leaving our homes two weeks ago. Airstrikes continue and there were reports of second phase of military operation.
Even now we remain without electricity and have limited access to food and water.
Suddenly, we lost our internet connection leaving us unable to communicate with anyone beyond our current location. We felt completely isolated from people in [the] north, our colleagues in Jerusalem… and our relatives outside Gaza.
The only sounds that reached us were the airstrikes, and we remained unaware of their impact or location.
For 36 hours we were confined to a small space, overwhelmed by [an] unfamiliar and unsettling situation.
As for drinking water, we have had to buy bottled water, which costs a lot more – at least 40% extra. Each of us can only drink half a litre a day… This morning, our internet connection was finally restored and we spent more than 10 hours trying to reconnect with colleagues and family members.
We heard about additional people killed, buildings being destroyed and escalation of violence on the ground.
We are looking for ceasefire, to stop this hard situation and reopening of borders to address this urgent humanitarian need.
On the 23rd day of Gaza war there has been no positive change at all.
Day after day the situation is getting worse and worse. Yesterday we were unable to access drinking water as the private vendors lack the fuel to be able to operate their trucks for water delivery.
We were forced to go out after dark to fill water jerry cans for children, managing to collect only 40 litres for over 100 people. Today in the early morning we stood in front of a water desalination plant operated by a solar system and finally managed to fill 80 litres using jerry cans.
This afternoon we celebrated because we succeeded in obtaining 1,000 litres in the home we are staying in thanks to a donkey cart. This will cover our water needs for three days max.
Hopefully we will celebrate again when we can safely return to our home in Gaza City.
An immediate ceasefire and the reopening of borders are urgent needs to save the lives of people in Gaza.
Since three days we were looking for bread. Finally we managed to have some bread. It’s now 8 o’clock in Gaza. And we were waiting for bread since 2 o’clock. You cannot see anyone in the street. Only the drones and cats and rabbits in the street and a huge amount of solid waste here and there.
We are happy because we managed to have bread for our children. This is our situation now. Only one bakery in the area we are staying in is working. All bakeries are stopped due to lack of fuel needed to operate these bakeries. UNWRA provided them with wheat flour but there is no fuel to operate the bakeries. I don’t know how we will manage after that and how we will be able to meet the basic needs of our children.
We are looking for a ceasefire, we are looking for a reopening of borders.
It’s the 40th day of Gaza war and we are still far from our homes along with more than one and a half million people.
Prices have trebled, the market is almost empty and there is a major shortage in essential food and basic items. No bread, no dairy products, no salt, no milk, no canned food, no blankets or mattresses.
Access to basic services is very limited. No electricity, no gas, no water. Dire health system and no education.
We feel trapped in a dark tunnel, unsure of where we are heading, facing a dire situation and doing our best to protect our families and provide them with the basic needs to survive in such [an] unbelievable situation. It feels like a long dream and we wish to [wake] up and forget this dramatic and horrible dream.
We are strongly seeking for a ceasefire to protect civilians and reopening of borders and return back to our homes with humanitarian aid reaching Gaza.
The streets were very crowded. People leaving on foot, on donkey carts… all of them afraid.
People stayed in street, they fixed tents in the street under rain.
We managed to travel in a group. My uncle, my cousins, my sisters, my wife, my children, my father… and other members of the extended family. We decided to travel in together, trying to protect ourselves and to ensure the safety of the group.
While we were travelling, different airstrikes were around but Alhamdulillah [thank God] we arrived safely.
During the first two days we slept in our cars. Our children faced huge challenges to access bathrooms, and to access food.
Currently we face challenges in having bread or wheat flour and drinking water.
In order to meet our basic needs, we started building bathrooms and fixing tents.
I cannot guarantee that the place that we are in now is safe. However, this area was announced as a safe zone. I hope [it] continues as a safe zone for us and for all people who are staying around us.
We are looking for a ceasefire. We are looking for humanitarian aid to support the resilience of the people in the Gaza Strip.
The situation cannot be described. The situation is very [bad], there [are] no basic foods… there is no water. The situation [is] again getting worse and worse and now we are on the 60th day without any light at the end of the tunnel… hope [it will] be sorted out safely.
30 December 2023
It’s the 85th day of Gaza war.
The humanitarian crisis is compounded by mass displacement and winter conditions... the heavy airstrikes and the ground operation have impacted all life aspects. Have impacted civilians, especially women and the children and impacted the efforts of the humanitarian aid workers to go and to support those people.
In general, displaced [people] are staying in overcrowded shelters with limited area and limited resources. Diseases, widespread by mass displacement and overcrowding add further strain to an already overwhelmed health system.
Families who have had to leave their homes are [in] public shelters, putting kids, women and older folks at risk of getting sick.
Diseases are spreading fast and the hospitals are struggling to help everyone because there is not enough electricity and not enough space and not enough resources.
Even though aid groups are working hard, they cannot keep up with how big the problem is, security issues and the problems delivering aid are making things even harder... the people especially women and children are all facing a really tough time in Gaza Strip.
I see a lot of people who are leaving their homes...to stay safe and to save their children and their relatives. They are leaving without any idea about the place that they are going to stay in.
Again, the situation is getting worse day after day and we don’t know what will happen if this situation is continued without ceasing fire.
Without having humanitarian aid for those families, for those children, for those women.
There is a huge need to support Internally Displaced Peoples to access basic needs including sanitation... domestic and drinking... food and protection services...most of sewage now [is] pumped to the sea or charged to the aquifier, which is the main source of water in Gaza Strip. In addition, most Internally Displaced Peoples depend on the agricultural wells to have water, which does not fit with the standards of any humanitarian parameters.
The Gaza Israel conflict is a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. 2 million people are under siege, with little to no food, water, fuel or electricity. Oxfam is campaigning for an immediate and lasting ceasefire, and preparing to help the people of Gaza as soon as it’s safe.