Amr's Story: Balancing Family, Work, and Survival in Gaza

By Angela Hill, Communications delegate, Canadian Red Cross

Read the latest on Amr and his family

For most people in Gaza, the future is more uncertain than ever before.

After more than 100 days, even volunteers and staff at Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) struggle to know how best to protect their families and make decisions for what to do next.

“I was talking with some of them who are taking shelter in the PRCS building now,” said Amr, PRCS Media Officer, via WhatsApp messages from Gaza.

A man stands in front of a trailer with a Canon camera in hand.
Amr Ali, PRCS Media Officer pictured in Gaza.
Photo credit: Palestine Red Crescent Society.

“They asked me what should we do? Where should we go and how can we protect our children? I could not answer because I have the same questions.” Everyone in Gaza has been impacted. 

Everyday Amr wakes up knowing he first must secure food, drinking water, and water for bathing for himself and his family. Then he goes to work with PRCS, documenting their activities including their emergency response and distributions of food, water, and relief items. He works to show the suffering of people in Gaza. He tells stories he gathers from staff and the displaced people staying at PRCS headquarters – hearing about evacuation and displacement, and of injuries and loss. 

“I have in my memory very large tragic stories from the scenes I see during my response in working with the injured, the dead, and their families. These scenes will never be erased from my memory. They always cause me insomnia, and I fear that my loved ones will have the same fate.”

Friends told him about walking for hours from Gaza City to the south of Gaza Strip how there were explosions happening near them, and how they had to turn back the first time they tried.

“His sister was terrified and she [was] unable to move at the time. He had to help her walk while helping his three young children as well,” Amr said. The whole family eventually made it.

Amr also left the north with his family and resides with 30 others in the house of his brother. He doesn’t know what the situation is regarding his home. The situation is deteriorating, with many of the people living with him becoming sick. The last update he received was a photo that showed his home partially damaged. In such uncertainty, he continues to work with PRCS. 

The ongoing shelling has everyone in the house on edge. 

“The problem is the children, they are afraid and don’t know exactly what is happening or why,” Amr said, “I try to play with them with some toys and make loud voices to distract them.”

The family is now trying to decide between staying in Khan Yunis or moving once again, this time to Rafah, where they don’t know anyone and have nowhere to go.

“A few days ago, my kid asked me to make a sandwich because he was starving in the night. I couldn’t do anything because we have no flour, no bread, no biscuits to feed them,” he said.

“I feel like a useless father who cannot do the easiest thing for his beloved son.”

Amr’s situation is playing out in homes across Gaza as food and water become scarcer and infections are on the rise. Ongoing fighting has left families struggling with what to do next. 

Palestine Red Crescent Society staff and volunteers are providing medical care in hospitals and advanced medical posts, ambulance services, public health messaging, and psychosocial support to people in Gaza. Teams are also coordinating the reception and distribution of life-saving aid, such as food, water, medicine, and other emergency items. They do this despite worrying for the suffering of their families and living in the difficult conditions themselves.

*Situation Update (January 22, 2024): Since this was written in December 2023, Amr has moved his family again with his parents and brother’s family to a tent in an area near the beach to try and find a safe place for them to be, despite near-freezing conditions. He stays behind in the house to try to continue working as long as possible despite the ongoing hostilities.

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