Children of Gaza prepare for Eid

© UNRWA A boy in a market during Ramadan in Gaza.

UN News Clusters of tents are cobbled together with any available fabric, plastic and wood, as Ramadan decorations, lamps and lanterns illuminate a crowded camp of displaced people in central Gaza, spreading a ray of hope amid the rubble of war.

While ceasefire talks failed to end the five-month-long conflict that has killed nearly 32,000 Palestinians – most of them women and children – the goal of some youngsters living in the makeshift camp was simple.

The children of Deir Al-Balah decided to lift their spirits in the face of ongoing war and celebrate the holy month of Ramadan and coming Eid, despite all the difficulties.

UN News/Ziad Taleb Shahad is a displaced child who lives with her family in a makeshift shelter in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza.

‘We agreed to decorate the camp’

“Every year we welcome Ramadan in our homes, but this year is different,” Shahad told UN News’s correspondent in Gaza, Ziad Talib. “Ramadan has come upon us while we are in the middle of war.”

One of the children in the camp, Shahad said she was having fun carrying lanterns for Ramadan.

“We agreed to change the atmosphere of war and decorate the camp,” she explained, with a smile on her face and enthusiasm filling her voice.

UN News/Ziad Taleb Amira was displaced from northern Gaza to Deir Al-Balah.

Amira, displaced from northern Gaza “from built houses to tents on the dirt”, cherished the happiness as the youngsters sang in a small square between the tents.

“The children’s joy is our joy,” she said.

Despite the grief, loss and distance from family and loved ones, Amira said they decided on their own to celebrate the holy month.

UN News/Ziad Taleb Ahmed Musleh, who was displaced from Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza to Deir Al-Balah.

Worsening hunger

The displaced people and residents in Deir Al-Balah alike are suffering from challenging and difficult conditions, with hostilities displacing more than 1.7 million people amid an ever-worsening hunger crisis, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

As lifesaving deliveries into the besieged enclave are alarmingly insufficient to meet rapidly escalating needs of almost the entire population who depend on food aid, famine warnings came on Monday, with a new report revealing that half the population in Gaza – 1.1 million people – have completely exhausted their food supplies and are suffering from catastrophic hunger and starvation.

“Ramadan is upon us, and we are in the worst situation,” warned Ahmed Abd Rabbo Musleh, who was displaced from Beit Hanoun in the north.

People are trying hard to find something to support their families, especially during Ramadan, with a simple meal costing about 40 shekels (about $11), he said, adding that “we cannot live at these prices.” 

Despite the circumstances, Ahmed said he was able to provide food and drink for his family, but “there are those who cannot afford even bread.”

This year, Ramadan ‘is different’

Others agreed, including Ahmed Thabet, who said no one can afford the “exorbitantly high prices” to buy what little food is available.

“Ramadan this year is different from any Ramadan we have experienced throughout our entire lives,” he said.

A displaced woman from the Shujaiya neighborhood east of Gaza City said vegetables for a whole week used to cost about $5, but not anymore.

“We were deprived of everything,” she stressed, saying the situation is getting worse every day.

One man said he did not have any money, forcing him to get breakfast from one of the hospices and lamenting that “the situation this Ramadan is unprecedentedly tragic.”

UN News/Ziad Taleb Children in a makeshift shelter in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza, celebrate Ramadan.

Buds of hope emerge

As the winter comes to an end and the war enters its sixth month, hope emerges amid the tents of the Deir Al-Balah camp, where Amira watched a group of children raise their lanterns.

“Despite the war and tragedy,” she said, “we are living through it. We love the children’s joy. We love to change the situation we are living in and raise our morale and the morale of our people.”

Meanwhile, children’s voices rise above the tiny square, wishing all passersby Ramadan Kareem.