Ramadan 2024: What will the holy month be like in war-ravaged Gaza?

Palestinians in the enclave are already going without meals because of severe food shortages

What will the holy month of Ramadan be like in Gaza?

What will the holy month of Ramadan be like in Gaza?
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Families in Gaza will be forced to observe Ramadan in severely overcrowded shelters without adequate food, clean water or other essentials.

The holy month is to begin next week, but Fakhri, 32, an employee at Al Shifa Hospital in the northern Gaza city, said people in the besieged enclave had been living in dire conditions a long time. “We’ve been fasting for five months, living on one meal,” he said.

The war has left much of the Palestinian enclave in ruins and created a humanitarian catastrophe, with most of its population displaced and “one step away from famine”, the UN said.

“In Gaza, the entire population from some 2.2 million people is facing at least crisis levels of acute hunger,” Dina Esposito, an assistant to the administrator of USAid, told a Senate foreign relations committee hearing on global food security on Wednesday.

Children are already dying from malnutrition in northern Gaza as Israel restricts food deliveries, while desperate civilians have gathered around aid lorries. More than 100 people were killed last week when Israeli forces escorting a convoy opened fire on the crowd.

Unicef said at least 10 children were reported to have died from dehydration and malnutrition in northern Gaza.

"We’ve spent difficult Ramadans during wars before, but this is the first time we’re displaced from our homes and our cities,“ said Hassan, 38, an English teacher in Rafah, Gaza's southernmost city where the population has soared to about 1.4 million because of the influx of displaced people.

“We are going to fast – this kind of crisis brings one closer to his God and his religion.”

Children in Gaza celebrate Ramadan amid continuing war

Children in Gaza celebrate Ramadan amid continuing war

Markets in Gaza have not received new stock since the war began on October 7. The distribution of whatever little food is allowed to enter the enclave is limited mostly to southern Gaza. Scarcity has pushed the price of goods beyond the reach of most Gazans.

“In the past five months, I’ve been spending money that I had been saving for a rainy day and nothing remains from this money now, “ said Ahmed, 34.

"We’re living on donations," said the civil engineer, who was displaced from Gaza city to a refugee camp in Khan Younis in the south, then moved on to Deir Al Balah in central Gaza.

Heavy Israeli bombardment, as well as ground fighting, has destroyed or damaged more than 60 per cent of homes in Gaza and displaced 80 per cent of the population – about 1.7 million people, according to the UN. At least 30,800 people have been killed, Gaza's Health Ministry said on Thursday.

No mosques, or homes to decorate

During Ramadan special prayers known as taraweeh are traditionally performed at mosques every night. But for Gazans, this will not be possible this year.

“I used to perform the taraweeh prayers in a different mosque every day,“ said Omar Nehad, a displaced Palestinian in Rafah.

“Now there are no mosques left. They have all been destroyed.”

Parents and children one went shopping for Ramadan lanterns and decorations for their homes.

This year, there are barely any decorations on sale, and little money to spare to buy them. Concrete homes in the enclave have been replaced with makeshift tents.

“We will hang the lanterns outside our tent,” said Om Mohamed, from Rafah.

Nevertheless, children have found a way to celebrate, resorting to lighting pieces of steel wool and swinging them around quickly to create a homemade firework display.

“Despite the conditions that the Palestinian children are living in, they try to express their feelings ahead of Ramadan," said Rafah resident Nedal Abouleneen. “They play and try to create joy.”

For some parents, the restriction of meals during Ramadan offers some respite.

“We have a strong excuse in front of our children to eat one meal a day, and teach them patience," said Mohammad, 45, who used to work in sales before the war. “May God reward us for all this suffering.”

Updated: March 19, 2024, 7:30 AM