One constant fear for everyone, apart from the bombing, is that Rafah is near the coast. Every time we look out to sea, we almost expect to see an invasion force of Israeli landing craft.
And my private fear is that the supplies of drinking water will run out. We have around 15 litres left in plastic bottles, maybe a little less. That’s about two pints each. On Thursday, some of our neighbours shared what they had with us, because everyone here does whatever they can for their friends, but the whole of Rafah wants water – and there just isn’t any.
When an aid truck did get through, it brought a delivery of shrouds. If they do not send water soon, they will never be able to bring enough shrouds. Without water, we are on the brink of cholera and typhoid epidemics, and a humanitarian crisis on a scale that cannot be exaggerated.
I went out last week, willing to buy all the water I could find, and no one would sell it at any price. As for water to wash with, we have just a few bowlfuls which we reuse, and save for the toilet.
Some of the supermarkets are still open, but their shelves are swept bare. We want flour for bread but there is none. Yesterday an endless queue snaked through the streets, because a small amount of bread was being distributed. People were told they’d have to wait five hours. I didn’t waste my time: I knew the bread would all be gone long before it was my turn, and meanwhile my sister needed my help at home.
I have been able to get rice, and that means at least that the children can be fed. There is no electricity, but in Rafah the power grid has been unreliable for years and most people cook with gas, stored in metal canisters. So, by being frugal and inventive, we are managing to eat.
Every time I step outside, there is a real danger I might not return. But I have to take the risk, because I am the head of the household. My sister’s husband is in an Egyptian hospital, being treated for a brain tumour.
Even before this war, there was no treatment for that kind of cancer in Gaza. The system had collapsed, and hospitals were largely run by volunteer doctors who worked long shifts doing surgical operations. Now, there is no treatment for any kind of illness. Healthcare is non-existent.
I am Palestinian, though I was born and brought up in a refugee camp in Egypt. My mother, who was my whole world, died suddenly from cancer when I was 17.
I came to Gaza with my sons in 2007, after the death of my husband and my 14-month-old daughter in an accident in Yemen. We arrived with nothing, and it took me nine years to pay for my apartment – and another two years of hard work to pay for all the furnishings. Now it has been destroyed, and once again we have nothing. I am sad beyond words.
At the age of 52, I am not afraid to die. We all die: what matters is to do good with your life. I am a charity worker, a Community Programme Officer with MAP. My work focuses on women with breast cancer, as well as survivors of gender-based violence and girls with intellectual disabilities.
I believed in my work with all my heart, and now there’s no way to help those people. I don’t even know whether my colleagues are still alive. Every morning I go through the ritual on my phone of sending each of them, and many others of my friends, a message – telling them I’m okay, that I’m thinking of them, that I want to hear from them.
So far, none of them have answered me.
My phone, an essential piece of equipment for my job, is our best lifeline. My neighbours help me to keep it charged, plugging it in to a solar panel source for four hours each day. If we lose that trickle of solar power, we will have no electricity at all.
The message I want to send most of all is one to the politicians, especially to the British government which has so much influence on the United Nations, on the Israelis and on the United States. That message is a short one: please make the bombing stop. We are desperate women and children who want only to live in peace.
No matter what happens, I will not leave now. Gaza is my home. If I am not killed, I will be here to help rebuild my country. My name, Amal, means ‘Hope’ in Arabic. Right now, hope is all we have.