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Adapting in times of crisis: Gaza tailors make diapers instead of wedding dresses

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Two stylized images of women wearing glamorous wedding dresses adorn the front of a tailoring workshop in Rafah, but the workers inside have switched to making diapers, one of the many necessities that have become impossible to find in wartime Gaza.

With most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people displaced by Israel’s military offensive, more than half of them crammed into the Rafah area near the boundary with Egypt, a shortage of diapers is making life a misery for babies and their parents.

“There are 1.5 million displaced people in Rafah city and there are no Pampers,” said Yasser Abu Gharara, owner of the tailoring workshop now making diapers.

He said the shortage of diapers had pushed up the price of a single packet at the market to about 200 shekels ($55), an exorbitant price for families also struggling to get hold of enough food.

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“If the banks were open, you would need to get a loan to buy Pampers,” he said, standing in the workshop as a row of women used sewing machines to produce diapers.

Abu Gharara said they were using recycled protective clothing dating back to the COVID-19 pandemic as material to make the diapers, and that he hoped the items would help families enduring grueling conditions.

“We are not only talking about diapers for babies, but also for the elderly and people with disabilities,” he said.

For displaced people living in tent camps, the dearth of diapers has been worsening the daily struggle to keep babies and toddlers clean and dry.

Displaced mother Inas Al-Masry, who has a pair of twins as well as an older daughter who all need diapers, was using what looked like a tiny pair of shorts fashioned out of the transparent pink plastic of a grocery bag to protect one of her babies.

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The plastic shorts were too tight and the infant boy, lying on the ground inside a tent, cried as Al-Masry pulled them up.

She said she could not afford to buy diapers at 180 or 190 shekels per packet when her twins would get through a single packet in a week.

“After that week, how will I get another packet?” she said.

“Even with the cover I’m putting on the baby, I need to change it all the next day. They all need clothes, but clothes are not available, blankets are not available for children. We don’t have anything available. We don’t even have mattresses, we are dumped in tents on the street.”

Hany Subh, a displaced father, said he was looking for diapers in the market every day, but the prices were too high.

“Tell me, should we eat or buy Pampers?” he said.

The war was triggered by a Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage, according to Israel.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has responded with an air and ground assault that has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians and injured more than 69,000, according to Gaza health officials. The war has reduced much of the enclave to rubble and caused what the U.N. has called a humanitarian catastrophe.

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