Zahira lives with her husband and six children in Rafah, a Palestinian refugee camp in Southern Gaza. She lost a child a year ago, which deepened her husband’s depression so that he had to quit work.
‘Look at my home, we have no paint on the walls, no windows.’ She signals through a doorway half draped with a shawl to an open room: ‘There is no roof on this room.’
Many houses in the camp are built with corrugated iron and other recycled building material and many are incomplete. The wall separating her home from the sand road is made up of a variety of rags tied together.
To feed her two sons and four daughters she relies on hand-outs of flour and rice and other essentials every three months from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), however these only last her for a month and a half.
The Israeli blockade, which restricts the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza, makes it very difficult for people to get food, and has contributed to the fact that as much as 70 per cent of the population now receive food aid.
A family whose only source of income is cash assistance from Ministry of Social Affairs receives about £168 every three months. The only way a family has of surviving on this scheme is to cut their expenses to £1.68 per day for the whole family. These families can only afford essential vegetables, resulting in malnutrition problems especially among children and pregnant women and may have been the reason why Zahira lost her child last year.
As the Gaza blockade continues, supply and demand factors have pushed up the price of goods in local market, making basic food prohibitively expensive for poor families. Some prices are similar to UK prices; a kilo of potatoes costs 42p (53p in the UK), a kilo of onions 34p (59p in the UK) and vegetable oil costs £4.50, almost three times as much as in the UK.
While the blockade has been eased and more food is allowed into Gaza, unemployment runs at 39 per cent, one of the highest rates in the world, increased supplies means very little to many who can’t afford them.
A UN report earlier this year on the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories said that the average Gazan is "worse off than he was in the late nineties”.
Zahira often has to make life saving decisions; recently she had to sell a bag of flour, which could provide her whole family with bread, so that she could get some milk for her two-and-a-half-month-old son, Hamed.
What does she hope for the future? ‘I hope this gets better… what can I say? My only hope is for this blockade to end.’
Christian Aid partner NECC is provided her with cash to help her buy food for her family to feed her family and psychosocial support.
Join thousands of people across the UK this May (7-11) Living Below the Line for Christian Aid to raise money and awareness of the 1.4 billion people who live below the poverty line every day.
The money you raise through sponsorship will help people like Zahira in Gaza to help themselves out of poverty.
For more information please visit www.livebelowtheline.com/uk-christianaid