Feature: Displaced Gazans burn solid waste for cooking as fuel, shrubs run out-Xinhua

Feature: Displaced Gazans burn solid waste for cooking as fuel, shrubs run out

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-04-29 23:47:15

GAZA, April 29 (Xinhua) -- Mohammed Abu Hasna, a displaced Palestinian based in Rafah, can barely catch his breath as his respiratory health has significantly deteriorated amid the hardships of war.

Short even of firewood, Mohammed and thousands of other displaced people walk several kilometers to scavenge for grass, cardboard, and even nylon from piles of trash with bare hands.

"Everything in our life has changed ... we have to cook on fire," he said, as cooking fuel has long gone in Gaza.

Seven months ago, the 38-year-old father of five was in good health. He was an athletic man who adopted a healthy lifestyle.

His life was turned upside down when the Israel-Hamas conflict started in October last year, forcing him to flee southward and take shelter in a temporary tent in the city of Rafah with tens of thousands of other displaced people.

"Once I lit the fire, I was immediately smothered with black smoke billowing in the room ... Unfortunately, I cannot stop (making fire), as I have to help my wife cook food for our children, otherwise they are starving," he complained.

Over the past seven months, Abu Hasna has only been able to obtain one gas tube, which was only enough to last him one month.

Breathlessness and other severe respiratory problems prompt him to seek medical advice. "The doctors asked me to stay away from the fire ... so my wife has to take over the cooking task, which makes her sick," he said.

The children of Mariam al-Mughrabi, a displaced Palestinian woman in Rafah, were also troubled by the smoke emanating from burning firewood or even trash, which they used for cooking.

"My children are forced to inhale the smoke rising from the cooking fire ... we have no other choice," the 49-year-old woman told Xinhua, while preparing food on a crude stove.

What made matters worse, she did not have enough money to buy medicine for her children.

"We have received thousands of displaced people who have contracted diseases due to lighting fires instead of using cooking gas," Marwan al-Hams, an official at Abu Youssef Al-Najjar Hospital, told Xinhua.

"The numbers are steadily rising, with most of them suffering from chest diseases, shortness of breath, infections, and other health issues," Al-Hams said.

Meanwhile, the government media office in Gaza recorded that hundreds of people reported respiratory symptoms due to the use of "plastic and chemical materials to light fires that emit toxic fumes."

Salama Maarouf, the head of the Hamas-run government media office, said that "the Israeli authorities have continued to block the entry of cooking gas and various types of fuel into the Gaza Strip. This exacerbated the humanitarian and health crisis in the territory."

Maarouf warned that the illness is a warning of "a crisis getting worse," calling on the international community to exert pressure on Israel to allow the entry of cooking gas into the Strip.

Since Oct. 7, the Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave have been living under a large-scale Israeli offensive, which came in response to an unprecedented attack by Hamas, the Islamist group ruling Gaza, on Israeli towns adjacent to the territory. Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people in Israel, according to Israeli tallies.

Since then, Israel has suspended the supply of electricity, fuel, and cooking gas to Gaza, which causes serious problems for locals grappling with a serious humanitarian situation.