Food items available in Gaza markets for first time in six months

Chicken, fruit and vegetables stocked in the strip as aid enters through the Rafah border

Palestinians sells fruits and vegetables at a market on the last Friday of Ramadan in Al Nusairat refugee camp, Gaza Strip. EPA
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Markets in Gaza began restocking livestock at significantly higher prices, for the first time since the war began six months ago, as aid and goods flow at a faster rate through the Rafah border crossing.

Tahani Abu Odeh, 35, was finally able to make her family 'fatteh', a Palestinian dish made up of rice and chicken.

“For the first time in months, we feel that there is life in the northern Gaza Strip. We are finally finding things in the market like vegetables, fruits, frozen meat and legumes.”

Like thousands others, Ms Abu Odeh has been surviving on canned foods for the most part in the past few months.

“It's true that prices are still high and not everyone can afford to buy from the market, but having these goods available is better than their absence and scarcity,” she told The National.

On Sunday, a doctor from the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) who had visited Gaza as part of a delegation sent by the World Health Organisation described acute malnutrition in northern Gaza, largely affecting children.

Dr Samer Attar said he was “surrounded” by hunger during his visit. The UN and other NGOs had been warning that malnutrition had doubled in just a single month in the besieged, war-torn enclave, as aid lorries were being turned back, and humanitarian assistance was coming in at a fraction of the rate it was before the war began, despite the exacerbated humanitarian crisis.

Ms Abu Odeh is originally from Beit Hanoun in Gaza's north but was displaced to Jabalia refugee camp with her husband and four children after her family home was destroyed by Israeli shelling.

She says her children had all lost weight due to the lack of food.

“For two months I couldn't feed them anything good … We've overcome a lot of pain and hunger in the past weeks.”

Fruits and vegetables trader Mahdi Ayyad said markets have started to thrive after the entry of goods through the southern Rafah border crossing that are now making their way to the north, where they are most needed.

“Traders in the north of the Gaza Strip have managed to bring fruits such as apples, bananas, and vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as cheese and frozen chicken and meat,” Mr Ayyad told The National.

He said the prices remained high but were slightly lower than they were when the war first began. A kilogram of meat now costs 60 ILS ($16), whereas before the war, fresh meat used to cost around 45 ILS ($12), he said.

Gazans are able to get some foods they have been completely absent from the markets since the war began.

“The sight of the market is now pleasing. We are starting to see bananas, apples, oranges, melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, chicken, and many other things,” 45 year-old Hani Al Zarad told The National.

The father of three lives in Al Duraj neighbourhood, east of Gaza city. He is one of the few who were able to stay in his neighbourhood and not flee to the south.

The availability of these rare commodities in Gaza has brought him a sense of optimism.

“I was one of those people who had lost hope that I would ever be able to eat these things again after being deprived of them. But thank God, he has relieved us,” he said.

Affordability, however, has remained an issue for Mr Al Zarad in the absence of cash money – as many people have no access to their funds through banks and ATMs while the financial infrastructure remains largely impacted by the war.

An employee in Ramallah, Mr Al Zarad had not received his salary for months.

“I am unable to withdraw money from the bank due to the lack of cash and funds in Gaza. I hope that the coming days will be filled with goodness, and the prices will return to normal,” he said.

Updated: April 17, 2024, 11:05 AM