My family is in danger but there is nowhere left to flee in Gaza – shall we sleep on the streets? 

An Islamic Relief aid worker* in Gaza reports that danger is closer to his family than ever, but they have nowhere left to flee. 

Yesterday, we woke to new orders for people to evacuate neighbourhoods in Gaza’s middle area. This means the danger is coming closer to us, and it is terrifying. 

We have nowhere else to go. I will not take my family to live on the street and sleep on the sidewalk.  

I do not know how long the world will keep watching this catastrophe unfold. The world is turning a blind eye to our suffering and the dire humanitarian situation which we Palestinians are facing.  

This is not life. It is just death, but with the ability to speak and breathe. Even the simplest things are now beyond our reach: food, water, charging our phones, even getting toilet paper. 

Even basic foods are scarce and expensive 

A couple of days ago, we regained access to the internet and mobile phone signals, after being cut off for a whole week. I was so happy to be able to text my sisters who live outside Gaza. I haven’t seen my sister in Saudi Arabia since 2015, but managed to catch up with the one who lives in Turkiye about 6 years ago, while attending an Islamic Relief meeting in Istanbul. 

Chatting on the family WhatsApp group, my sister – knowing how much we are all craving a decent meal in besieged Gaza – tried to give us ideas for simple food recipes. I asked, what is the simplest thing that you can cook. Pasta, she replied. I told her that pasta is rarely available and when we can find it, it’s too expensive. A 500g pack of spaghetti costs around $4 USD. To feed the 20 of us currently living at my parents’ house, we’d need 2 kg of pasta, at a cost of $16. And the other ingredients aren’t available at all – finding cheese, for example, is an impossible mission. We can make pasta sauce, but tomato prices are ridiculously high. 

A sister suggested we just boil some eggs for the kids. I told her that if you can find a dozen eggs in Gaza, they cost about $6. Before, they cost $1. Still, we managed to find eggs a few days ago and fried them for a meal. It had been a long time since we’d tasted eggs, so they tasted wonderful.  

Difficult daily decisions 

I told my sisters about the 4 main preconditions to select our meals: first, the ingredients should be available. Second, it can be prepared on a wood fire. Third, it should be of sufficient quantity to feed everyone in the house. Fourth, it should not need bread to accompany it.  

We used to buy bread from bakeries, but from the first days of the fighting, many bakeries have been targeted. The remaining bakeries cannot make bread anyway, as Israel stopped fuel from entering Gaza, and there is little flour left here. What flour can be found costs about $100 for 25kg. 

Around 20 years ago in rural parts of Gaza, most families baked their own bread at home, using clay ovens. As modern life progressed, most people abandoned the ovens but now they are once more the only way to bake. Luckily, our neighbour has one so every couple of days my mum and sister go there to bake our bread. 10-15 families a day use that oven.  

It is tiring work, and of course they have to bring wood for the fire too, wood that is incredibly difficult to get. People are cutting down every tree they can find – someone told me he saw people going to graveyards to cut the trees. We bought a wooden shipping pallet: before all this, it would have been thrown away. 

A traditional clay oven in Gaza

You can help end this nightmare 

It is hard for us to live like this. This is the 21st century, in which human rights are emphasised and peoples’ dignity is protected by international law and the United Nations. But seemingly, Palestinians are excluded from this. 

This is a nightmare that needs to end.  

I swear, we are people who call for peace. We hate death and destruction. We want to thrive and prosper, like anyone else, anywhere else. But there are strong powers around us who do not want that, even for innocent Palestinian civilians.  

We still hope there are brave people around the world who can carry our voice and can tell our story to the world. I still believe you, my dear readers, can make change happen: please, put pressure on your governments to bring about the ceasefire we so desperately need. 

I know this is vacation time for many people and so I wish a merry Christmas and happy holidays to those celebrating. I hope next year you can come to visit Palestine and celebrate Christmas in the land where Jesus, peace be upon him, was born. 

Please help Islamic Relief support people in desperate need in Gaza: Donate to our Palestine Emergency Appeal now 

*This blog is anonymised to protect the safety and security of our colleague and others mentioned. Read the other blogs in this series here 

Editor’s note: This blog was submitted amid a fast-changing and deepening crisis. The information was correct as of 23 December 2023. 

new director

Director of Network and Resource Development

Adnan joined Islamic Relief in 2004 as a regional fundraiser in the UK. He worked in multiple roles over 10 years at Islamic Relief UK, including setting up the first digital team and leading the growth of digital fundraising and engagement. Adnan also led numerous fundraising and marketing campaigns, which played a significant part in the growth of Islamic Relief UK.

Having moved to Islamic Relief Worldwide in 2014, Adnan has held different roles that have helped grow Islamic Relief’s global digital footprint into new geographic territories, supporting Islamic Relief members with their digital and marketing growth as well as developing new products and initiatives for the Islamic Relief family.

Adnan graduated in Industrial Design and Technology from Loughborough University. He has since completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration from Durham University and a Diploma in Digital Marketing from the Institute of Data and Marketing.

Nadeem Azhar

General Counsel

Nadeem joined Islamic Relief Worldwide in September 2022. He has worked in the charitable sector for over a decade.

He studied Modern History and Politics at Manchester University, and at the University of Law in London before qualifying as a solicitor in 2011.

Nadeem is an experienced corporate, commercial and governance lawyer, having worked with various faith-based and grant making charities as well those in health and education settings. He was a partner at a law firm in London before moving in-house where he focused on setting up and restructuring charities and social enterprises.

Most recently, Nadeem was Lead Counsel at Mind, a leading mental health charity, where he co-authored a new federation agreement, revamped legal processes, and played a major role in developing its strategic and fundraising partnerships.

Nadeem has been a charity trustee for the Seafarers Charity, as well as many grant-making bodies and theatre companies.

Adnan Hafiz

Director of Network and Resource Development

Adnan joined Islamic Relief in 2004 as a regional fundraiser in the UK. He worked in multiple roles over 10 years at Islamic Relief UK, including setting up the first digital team and leading the growth of digital fundraising and engagement. Adnan also led numerous fundraising and marketing campaigns, which played a significant part in the growth of Islamic Relief UK.

Having moved to Islamic Relief Worldwide in 2014, Adnan has held different roles that have helped grow Islamic Relief’s global digital footprint into new geographic territories, supporting Islamic Relief members with their digital and marketing growth as well as developing new products and initiatives for the Islamic Relief family.

Adnan graduated in Industrial Design and Technology from Loughborough University. He has since completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration from Durham University and a Diploma in Digital Marketing from the Institute of Data and Marketing.

Board of Directors
Javed Akhtar

Director of Finance

Javed Akhtar has more than a decade of experience at Islamic Relief, having worked in a similar role between 2003-2014. In that role he strove to implement wide-ranging financial and accounting processes which aided in the transparent nature in which Islamic Relief now operates.

Javed also has diverse experience across the private sector, having worked at American chemicals and pharmaceutical giant DuPont, shipping firm FedEX and technology consultancy company Accenture. In all his roles, he prioritises using the latest technologies to improve monitoring and reporting at every level. Javed’s commitment to embracing digital end-to-end technology, enhancing accountability to our stakeholders and promoting financial transparency is ensuring that we remain at the forefront of financial developments in the sector.

By training, Javed is a chartered accountant with a Master’s degree in NGO Management with Charity Accounting and Financial Management from Cass Business School.
Board of Directors
Affan Cheema  

Director of International Programmes

Affan Cheema is an experienced leader who has spent 25 years working in the international aid sector on poverty eradication in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He has worked in fast onset emergencies, protracted crisis and development environments whilst working for Islamic Relief Worldwide and Care International. He is also a trustee of South West International Development Network (SWIDN).

Through his career Affan has held numerous roles including institutional fundraising, programme and grant management, and programme quality assurance.  Affan’s leadership has helped Islamic Relief Worldwide secure the highly coveted Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS), seen as the sector’s premier benchmark for operational excellence.

Affan completed his BA in Economics and Geography from University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies) and his MSc in Development Administration and Planning from the University of Bristol. He is PRINCE2 qualified, is a keen sportsman and recently co-edited a book entitled -Islam and International Development: Insights for working with Muslim Communities-.
Board of Directors
Dr Hossam Said

Managing Director, Humanitarian Academy for Development (HAD)

For nearly three decades Dr Hossam has provided the strategic vision to manage, lead and develop a range of international humanitarian interventions around the world.

At the start of his career, Dr Hossam served on the Board of Directors of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, before moving to Islamic Relief Worldwide to manage the core global business activities as International Programmes Director.

During this time the organisation increased its global reach, gaining both domestic and international repute and credibility. Dr Hossam has also served on the Islamic Relief Worldwide Board of Management and Executive Committee for the past 15 years; sharing responsibility for strategic organisational development and the change management process, whilst forging strong relationships with many other charities.

Dr Hossam gained an MBA from Aston Business School in 2004 and graduated as a Medical Doctor from Cairo University in 1981.
Board of Directors
Martin Cottingham  

Director of External Relations and Advocacy

Martin Cottingham joined Islamic Relief in 2012 as IRUK Media Relations Manager, and was appointed Head of Communications in 2015 before taking up his current position as Director of External Relations and Advocacy for Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Martin has helped Islamic Relief to increase its mainstream media profile and expand its campaigning work, producing hard-hitting advocacy reports on floods in Pakistan (2011) famine in Somalia (2012) disaster risk reduction (2013) and aid to Afghanistan (2014). He has over 20 years’ experience working in media, communications and marketing roles for international development and environmental charities.

Martin graduated from the University of London with a degree in English and Drama (1982-85) then trained as a journalist with a postgraduate diploma at City University (1986-87). He has previously worked for Christian Aid as Editor of Christian Aid News and Media Relations Manager (1988-97) for Oxfam as Regional Campaigns Manager (1997-2000) and at the Soil Association as Marketing Director (2001-2006), as well as working for a wide range of organisations as a freelance writer, researcher and communications consultant.

Tufail Hussain

Director of Islamic Relief UK

Tufail Hussain has 17 years’ experience in the humanitarian and development sector, leading on marketing and fundraising campaigns for several organisations before joining Islamic Relief UK in 2016 as Deputy Director. Tufail was appointed Director of Islamic Relief UK in 2019 and in 2021 provided valuable leadership as interim CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Tufail is driven by a passion for empowering disadvantaged youth and mentors a number of young people. He also works to strengthen engagement between British Muslims and wider society. Under his leadership, Islamic Relief UK has significantly increased its income and developed successful partnerships with communities across the country. He has travelled around the world to raise awareness of major emergencies such as the Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan crises and the floods in Pakistan and Sudan.

A father to 5 daughters and a son, Tufail is also a sports enthusiast and passionate Liverpool FC supporter. Tufail has run the London Marathon twice, raising over £35,000 for humanitarian causes.

Before joining Islamic Relief he was CEO of Orphans in Need, where he oversaw a new strategy that increased income from £2 million to £9 million in 3 years and opened up new UK and international offices. Tufail is also a trustee of the Muslim Charities Forum and a Director of TIC International (Islamic Relief Worldwide’s clothes recycling and trading arm).
Waseem Ahmad

Chief Executive Officer

Waseem Ahmad joined the Islamic Relief family over 24 years ago, serving as Programme Officer in the Balochistan province of south-western Pakistan before becoming Head of Programmes in Pakistan. Waseem then moved to Oxfam and Tearfund before returning to Islamic Relief to establish our mission in Malawi. Later serving as Head of Programme Funding and Partnerships, Waseem led the response to major crises across the globe, including the East Africa drought, Pakistan earthquake and the Indian Ocean Tsunami.

Waseem then served for nearly 6 years as our Director of International Programmes, during which time the charity secured and retained the coveted Core Humanitarian Standard certification in recognition of the quality of our programming. He was appointed CEO of Islamic Relief in May 2021.

With a special interest in community mobilisation and infrastructure, Waseem received an MSc in Project Planning and Management from the University of Bradford, as well as an MSc in Economics from Arid Agriculture University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Waseem has also worked for Lepra Health in Action and is a member of the International Civil Society Centre’s Board of Trustees. The father-of-3 enjoys walking and playing football, and is a keen birdwatcher.