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March 11, 2024

Many Palestinians began fasting for Ramadan today with ceasefire talks at a standstill, and an increasing number of people are facing severe hunger and the risk of famine. In what is typically a month of celebration and introspection, many will mark the holiday by remembering those they have lost while still living through immense suffering as the war grinds into its sixth month. 

Recent reports show approximately 22% of agricultural land, including orchards, greenhouses and farmland in northern Gaza, has been destroyed, affecting the ability of Gazans to grow their own food. In addition, over 70% of Gaza’s fishing fleet has been wiped out, with small-scale fishermen bearing the brunt as access to the sea continues to be denied and their boats are destroyed. After five months of near-constant bombardment, people in Gaza are dealing with skyrocketing prices for fresh produce, if it is available, or are forced to rely on canned food to feed themselves and their families. Even the dates eaten by families to break their fast during Ramadan are being reportedly turned away at the Rafah border under the explanation that the stones could be used as bullets or used to plant trees. And without clean and sanitary water, many are unable to break their fast while waterborne diseases increase among children under five.  

Ola and her family have been displaced to a camp in southern Gaza. The camps are overcrowded and unsanitary as cleaning products are unavailable and drinking water is unclean, which is causing disease and infection to spread. She has seen children with chickenpox, fleas, and lice.  Ola says:

“I have five children, and my brother has 10 children, we all live together. We are about 15 people with the children living in this one tent. Shops are closed and we cannot buy anything. But even if they were open, we don’t have money. Nothing and no one cares for us or even knows we exist. We have no money to provide our children’s essentials. We live on our daily income, we have no one to send us money or help us. My nephew, Habib, had jaundice. And I took him to the health center nearby I was told to isolate him and sanitize with Dettol and bleach. I haven’t had access to these materials ever since I came here…And I cannot isolate him, either!…He can’t have his own room! He cannot even have his own bed. 

You can see with your own eyes how crowded [the camp] is, and the lack of water. Fresh water is not very sanitary; many children became ill after drinking the water. One kid fell ill, another had a headache, others were unwell. Chicken pox is also spreading, and children are afraid to mention an itch. “My poor nephew has lice bite marks all over his neck and belly. I bathe my children and cannot dress them in clean clothes. It’s been five months since we lived like this. I cannot imagine having to spend the holy month of Ramadan like this.”  

 Riham Jafari, Communications and Advocacy Coordinator at ActionAid Palestine, said:

“This year Ramadan is mixed with a sense of sorrow and dread for those in Gaza that have already been fasting due to severe food shortages in the last five months.  How can we celebrate when tens of thousands of people have been killed, and when children are dying a slow death from severe malnutrition and preventable diseases? How can we enjoy our meals when we know that families in Gaza cannot put food on the table?”  

The war in Gaza has driven around 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people from their homes and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine. With millions of people displaced since the start of the war, families are unable to reunite and celebrate Ramadan together. Likewise, people are also facing restrictions on their rights to pray and join fellow worshippers as prayers are being held amidst the rubble of mosques. According to local authorities, around 1,000 of Gaza’s 1,200 mosques have been destroyed in Israeli attacks over the last five months, leaving millions of Palestinians in Gaza without communal places to pray.  

With Israeli authorities exerting tighter control over the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site for Muslims, many Palestinians in East Jerusalem were unable to perform prayers for the start of Ramadan. Overnight, many Palestinians were prevented from entering the mosque, with some reports allegedly showing officers with batons chasing away and beating worshippers.   

Riham continues:

“In this month of peace, we are urging the international community to work together and put an end to the senseless violence in Gaza and in the West Bank. With millions at risk of famine, only an immediate ceasefire will prevent more children dying in the coming days and weeks.”  


For media requests, please email or call 202-731-9593. 

Spokespeople are available: 

  • Niranjali Amerasinghe, Executive Director of ActionAid USA 
  • Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine 

About ActionAid    

ActionAid is a global federation working withmore than 41 million people living in more than 71 of the world’s poorest countries.We want to see a just, fair, and sustainable world, in which everybody enjoys the right to a life of dignity, and freedom from poverty and oppression. We work to achieve social justice and gender equality and to eradicate poverty.