For more than 200 days, life has been an unimaginable struggle and most Palestinians are barely able to make it. The most basic necessities of life are nearly impossible to come by, and since Israel ordered evacuation of parts of Rafah, an already unlivable situation has become dangerously worse.

My family is now sheltering in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza. We had been living with two other families – 23 people – in an overcrowded house. But then more of our relatives from Rafah were displaced, and the number has now increased to 45. Imagine living in a house with so many people, each trying to make a small ration stretch beyond its limits in an attempt to get some calories for the day. Water, once taken for granted, is a precious commodity. We use seawater to bathe, and many get sick from drinking polluted water.

The living conditions here are abysmal for the tens of thousands of arrivals from Rafah seeking shelter and refuge. The crowding is unbearable. Outside on the streets are thousands of tents, filled with entire families. Some people sleep out in the open because there is nothing available to use as a tent, or even if they have a tent there is nowhere to put it because of the overcrowding. Wastewater overflows into the streets and between the tents because there is nowhere else for it to go. The lack of sanitation causes disease, and the water is polluted. Mosquitoes and insects feed on the living, causing skin problems and reactions, and spreading more infections. We are fighting an invisible war against illness, infections and starvation.

Even with these conditions, we await the arrival of still more people from Rafah, hoping that they can get transportation to evacuate – but many families remain trapped. The cost to flee is so high, as transportation is limited, and most of the sick, starving and injured can’t travel at all. They just sit in their homes or tents and await their fate – not knowing if it will be an Israeli bomb or bullet.

The scarcity of medicine and treatment is one of the hardest things to bear. My pregnant sister had to give birth through a caesarean with no anaesthetic, and could feel every incision they made in her body. My brother contracted hepatitis from an infection. We can only guess the cause, but it is likely due to the unsanitary conditions we are living in. Even common conditions such as diabetes or breathing problems, which my parents have, cause unnecessary pain and could prove fatal without treatment.

I’m a maths teacher to young girls from age 11 to 16, and this is the longest I’ve ever gone without teaching. Previously, my students’ burning passion for life could make me forget about the tragedies we are living through in Gaza, and they pushed me to be a better person. Nine of my dear students have been killed in Israel’s unfolding genocide, each one a talented and kind girl who will never be able to follow her dreams now. I mourn each child as if they were my family.

The never-ending buzzing of drones above our heads and the crippling fear of going outside is constantly on my mind since my aunt and uncle were killed while walking past a home that was bombed. These unimaginable tragedies have become our reality, and I wish I could lock myself away and be safe, but nowhere is safe.

Two boys watch at the Israeli military strikes east of Rafah yesterday. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Each day becomes a blur. Our lives have stopped; we lost jobs, and our pursuit of development and achievement froze. I now spend my days with my family trying to save water and prepare what little food we have over a wood fire. At night, we wake up dozens of times to the sounds of continual explosions, and rest is a luxury. Then there are the occasional warnings we get from the Israeli military to evacuate the house immediately. This means we have to leave, often in the middle of the night, without a place to go, changing location two, sometimes three times, only to return early in the morning after the bombing has ended. Then everything repeats the next day. I’ve begun to forget how a person sleeps comfortably with their eyes closed.

I can’t even look in the mirror any more because I’m afraid to see my own face. Seeing the signs of the psychological warfare on myself is a stark reminder that this is real and how the toll on your soul and mental health shows on your body. Seeing my dark circles, hair loss in clumps, acne spotted skin from stress, I compare myself with others who have lost so much more, and I feel ashamed. But we are collectively experiencing this suffering.

The people in Gaza have endured endless cycles of hope and despair, and our hearts are weighed down by continual displacement and loss. Tears feel like a luxury we can’t afford, and the sense of helplessness is overwhelming as we struggle to survive in a world that seems indifferent to our suffering. Yet, amid the hardship, there is resilience. We cling to hope, knowing that each day brings us one step closer to relief and a ceasefire, even as our cities crumble around us.

  • Eman Mohamed is a maths teacher from Gaza

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