Sustaining Hope: Nadia Al-Laham's Triumph Over Hardship

23 June 2023
Nadia al-Laham proudly presents the delicious foods she has prepared with the modest ingredients of the UNRWA food basket. © 2023 UNRWA Photo by Mohammed Hinnawi

Nestled in the narrow alleyways of Beach camp in the Gaza Strip stands Nadia al-Laham's modest home. She lives there with her eleven sons and daughters. Nadia's husband, burdened by multiple health concerns such as heart problems, diabetes and high blood pressure, is unemployed and unable to work. Consequently, the family makes do with a modest income, "My husband used to work as a driver many years ago, but now he doesn’t work," says Nadia. He can no longer work at the same capacity as before due to his condition.  Nadia herself endures knee joint pain, restricting her mobility and forcing her to spend most of her time seated.

Like the majority of Palestine Refugees in the Gaza Strip, Nadia's family relies on the quarterly food assistance provided by UNRWA. "We are entirely dependent on UNRWA and its food assistance.  Despite this, we still cannot meet all our family's needs," explained Nadia. Prior to the blockade, her husband held a job as a driver. This provided the family with a stable income.

Currently, one of their sons is trying to find work in various trades, hoping to also contribute to the family's expenses. However, the Israeli blockade and soaring unemployment rates at a staggering 45 per cent have significantly limited livelihood opportunities and undermine personal stability and mental health. They are also obstructing his plans of marriage and starting a family.

As Palestine Refugees in the Gaza Strip, they are trapped.

UNRWA food aid, which is distributed every three months, remains their only source of income. Nadia uses every single item in the food basket. Occasionally, she relies on contributions from her other sons to cover the family's needs. "Today, I used flour, milk and sunflower oil from UNRWA to prepare pizzas and thyme pastries. In the simplest ways, I strive to nourish and bring joy to my daughters when they come to visit with their children," noted Nadia. Making pizza unifies the entire family, filling their hearts with immense joy. Nadia ingeniously crafts yogurt (labneh) and cheese from the milk provided by UNRWA to sustain her loved ones. "We prepare rice almost every day.  It is a staple dish and is also used for special occasions and gatherings," commented Nadia.

Nadia and her family yearn for a day when they can break free from the cycle of poverty. Despite the arduous living conditions in Gaza and the challenges they face, Nadia makes every possible effort to improve their economic circumstances and secure a brighter future for each family member. Regrettably, the enduring economic blockade makes this harder every year.

Like Nadia and her family, 40 per cent of people in the Gaza Strip are severely food insecure.  While in 2007, only 80,000 Palestine Refugees in Gaza were reliant on humanitarian assistance, it is today 1.2 million. UNRWA provides food assistance to these 1.2 million Palestine Refugees to mitigate the worst impacts of their food insecurity. However, years of underfunding have left the Agency in a serious financial crisis and UNRWA will not be able to maintain this food pipeline beyond September, unless it receives an additional US$ 75 million in contributions from donors.  This looming disaster underscores the urgency of collective action and support to safeguard life-saving UNRWA food assistance programmes.