Volker Türk’s plea was made while UN humanitarians persistently issued alarming alerts about the extent of the humanitarian emergency in the enclave.
‘Crumbs’ of aid
The leader of UNRWA, the organization responsible for aiding Palestinian refugees, stated that the limited number of aid trucks entering from Egypt since October 21st are insignificant and will not significantly impact the lives of two million people.
“We must ensure a consistent and meaningful flow of assistance. In order to achieve this, a ceasefire for humanitarian purposes is necessary to guarantee that the aid reaches those who require it,” he emphasized.
Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), informed reporters in Geneva about the heartbreaking accounts of parents who wrote their children’s names on their arms in order to identify their bodies.
The staff members on site inform her that every evening they assess the risks of sleeping outside or indoors, considering the potential danger of being hit by a collapsing ceiling or shrapnel.
A living ‘nightmare’
The WFP Representative for Palestine, Samer Abdeljaber, stated that the people in Gaza are facing a “nightmare” and have no way of escaping it. He emphasized the severe situation in UNRWA shelters, which are currently housing almost three times their capacity.
“He mentioned that in a room resembling a classroom, 70 individuals reside and attend to their basic needs, such as sleeping, eating, drinking, and caring for their families. However, there are only eight toilets available for a staggering 25,000 individuals.”
Lynn Hastings, the United Nations’ chief humanitarian representative in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, emphasized from Jerusalem that any aid and concerns related to humanitarian matters must be given without any conditions attached.
She stated that the 224 captives in Gaza must be freed without delay or conditions, echoing the plea made by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
She stated that humanitarian assistance must have the ability to reach individuals in Gaza without any conditions.
Ms. Hastings brought attention to the challenging decisions faced by the aid community due to the limited amount of aid being received, along with issues such as a lack of fuel and concerns about security.
She lamented the responsibility placed on humanitarian workers to determine “which communities receive the supplies, which bakeries to support, which desalination plants to activate or deactivate, and which hospital to provide medication to.”
The fuel crisis is causing services to deteriorate.
Ms. Hastings stated that under normal circumstances, over 780 fuel trucks would have entered Gaza by October 7th. However, due to a lack of deliveries, UNRWA has been depending on a single fuel pump near the Rafah border. Unfortunately, access to this pump has been inconsistent and the available supplies are quickly dwindling.
Ms. Hastings cautioned that due to limited fuel supply, bakeries in the Strip will only be able to produce enough bread for one million people for 11 more days. UNRWA also issued a warning that some individuals are already experiencing food shortages.
According to Samer Abdeljaber from WFP, only two bakeries under contract with WFP are currently operational, which is a significant decrease from the initial number of 23 at the beginning of the operation.
Fuel is essential for powering water desalination plants and pumping stations, enabling them to produce drinking water.
Ms. Hastings reported that due to backed up sanitation, untreated sewage is being discharged into the sea in Gaza. However, once fuel is depleted, potentially by tomorrow or Monday, it will no longer be possible to pump sewage and it will begin to overflow onto the streets.
Infants placed in incubators are in danger.
Dr. Richard Peeperkorn, a representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Palestinian territory under occupation, informed reporters that a minimum of 94,000 liters of fuel per day is necessary to sustain essential operations at 12 major hospitals in Gaza.
According to Dr. Peeperkorn, two out of every three hospitals in the enclave are only operating partially. He emphasized that the lack of electricity and medical supplies is endangering the lives of 1,000 kidney patients requiring dialysis, 130 premature infants in incubators, 2,000 cancer patients, and numerous others relying on ventilators in intensive care units.
This assistance is merely a small contribution.
Humanitarian workers emphasized that the shortage of fuel is hindering the ability of aid vehicles to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing and deliver necessary supplies.
Ms. Hastings emphasized the challenges of providing assistance to the northern region, which is currently under evacuation mandates. However, there has been a movement of displaced individuals returning from the southern area due to airstrikes and unlivable conditions.
Dr. Peeperkorn from the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that the 74 aid trucks that have entered Gaza through Rafah since October 21st, with an additional eight expected today, are a small number compared to the 450 trucks that used to enter daily before the crisis. This is only a fraction of the amount needed, according to Dr. Peeperkorn.
WFP’s Samer Abdeljaber said that his agency has only been able to bring in under two per cent of the food required. WFP has delivered fresh bread and canned tuna to half a million people in shelters in Gaza but “for every person receiving assistance, six more are in need”.
According to Mr. Abdeljaber, there are approximately 39 trucks from the WFP located at or near the Egyptian border with Gaza, waiting for entry. Additionally, other agencies have also strategically placed supplies in the area.
He stated that if the organization is given ongoing permission and resources, they intend to provide essential nourishment to over one million individuals in the next sixty days.