We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Bread made from livestock fodder in Rafah
Life in Gaza

Hunger in Gaza: 'We made bread using livestock fodder but now we've run out'

Palestinians were using livestock fodder to bake bread but they have now run out of that resource.


THIRTY-SIX-YEAR-OLD Warda Ahmad Matar stands before her hungry infant who cries inconsolably.

She is unable to breastfeed him due to malnutrition – a direct result from the devastating bombardment of Gaza by Israel. 

In the southern Gaza Strip’s Rafah city, where pharmacies lack essential infant formula, the displaced mother (from Jabalia camp in the north) resorts to placing a date in her baby’s mouth to provide some comfort.

Pale-faced, she adds: “There is no milk, and there is no proper nutrition for children. I’m suffering from malnutrition due to a severe shortage of goods, vitamins, basic necessities, and the rising prices.

Due to the lack of formula, I put a date in my baby’s mouth to make him stop crying.”

Warda continues, “We have never witnessed such attacks even in previous wars. Under normal circumstances, women could access proper and healthy nutrition, but in the ongoing war, there is no room for proper nutrition, and people’s conditions are extremely difficult.”

Catastrophic conditions

Mothers in Gaza, both before and after childbirth, have been facing extremely difficult circumstances due to food shortages and a lack of medical care.

Warda fled from northern Gaza to a shelter in one of the schools in Gaza City during the intensified attacks post-7 October. However, the Israeli occupation forces invaded the school, forcing her and others to move towards the Nuseirat camp in the central governorate.

The displaced in Gaza are facing catastrophic conditions, as the war forced nearly two million Palestinians to evacuate their homes to shelters in the central and southern parts of the Strip, areas lacking essential health facilities.

Speaking about the childbirth experience during the war, Warda says, “I gave birth to my child in the Sahaba Medical Complex in Gaza City, under extremely bad conditions, with the Israeli occupation army present in the surrounding area.”

She explains, “I reached the hospital with great difficulty on a cart pulled by a donkey, and I left shortly after giving birth in the same way.”

She adds that among these challenges are “the difficulty of accessing the health centre first, and malnutrition due to the scarcity of healthy food supplies”.

Emphasising the dire situation, she says, “In UNRWA, we used to receive a comprehensive service for pregnant women during pregnancy in normal situations, but during the war, all pregnant women struggle to reach the health centre to receive the service.

“We are worried from the aid cut of UNRWA. It is the only agency providing life items to poor in Gaza.”

She stresses that pregnant women are in danger while trying to reach medical clinics, whether by walking or riding a cart pulled by animals.

“Pregnant women are at risk due to Israeli shelling or during the evacuation process and movement on the road due to the holes and bumps resulting from the shelling, which may lead to bleeding or an increase in blood pressure due to shattered nerves,” she continues.

Hunger and lack of healthcare

The Israeli airstrikes have destroyed the healthcare system across the Gaza Strip, inhabited by approximately 2.4 million people, and restricted the entry of humanitarian aid.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said that “no one in Gaza has enough to eat”, expressing his concern about the lack of food in the Strip.

Guterres told a UN Security Council meeting on international peace and security that “of the 700,000 people suffering from hunger in the world, four out of every five of them live in this small coastal enclave”.

According to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor in December, 71% of Gaza’s population was suffering from acute hunger, while 98% of people did not have enough to eat.

The organisation, Human Rights Watch, has stated that the Israeli government is using starvation as a weapon of war, with ActionAid saying it was having devastating effects on Gaza’s population.

According to the statistics from the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, approximately 20,000 babies have been born in the Strip since 7 October last year, most of them inside shelters under harsh conditions, especially with most hospitals out of service due to the Israeli war.

UNRWA continues to provide this service in Deir al-Balah and Rafah clinics for those who can reach the medical clinics there.

Starvation in the North

The northern regions of the Gaza Strip are currently facing a severe humanitarian crisis, particularly around food supplies.

Residents in these areas are no longer able to access familiar food items such as flour, bread and various types of canned goods. Instead, due to recent rains in the region, they are resorting to consuming herbs growing on the streets.

Survival for Palestinians in these areas has been dependent on animal fodder, which they used to grind. Unfortunately, this supply has now completely run out.

WhatsApp Image 2024-02-14 at 16.02.25 Cooking animal fodder bread

In terms of drinking water, residents in the central and northern areas of the Strip are resorting to consuming seawater or sewage water that accumulates.

Efforts to deliver aid by trucks affiliated with UNRWA and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to the northern part of the Strip have faced obstacles, including Israeli airstrikes.

In the midst of this crisis, Sameera Ahmed, 45, from Gaza City, along with her six family members, has sought refuge in a UNRWA school in Gaza City.

She shared her struggle, mentioning that she cooked spinach that grew in nearby empty land due to the rain.

She expressed the difficulty of finding essential items like onions and bread, stating, “No onions available to help cook spinach properly or bread to eat with it, so I just cooked some spinach with rice so my children can survive. We haven’t eaten bread for the past three months.

“We used the livestock fodder and turned it to wheat to process bread. But even the livestock fodder isn’t available anymore,” she added.

The Journal knows the identity of the reporter on the ground in Gaza but has used a pseudonym for security purposes.