The World Health Organization cautions that while aid is finally reaching Gaza, it is insufficient and overdue.
Dr Rik Peeperkorn, the WHO Representative for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, stated that even without a ceasefire, it is expected that humanitarian corridors would be functioning in a more consistent manner than they currently are. However, this is not the case and the efforts being made are inadequate and delayed, particularly in the northern region.
Begging for food
WHO Emergency Medical Teams Coordinator Sean Casey has confirmed that there is a dire need for humanitarian aid, especially food, in various parts of Gaza, particularly in the northern regions.
The speaker, who was in Rafah in southern Gaza and communicating with journalists in Geneva through video, described the dire food situation in the north as there being hardly any food available. The people he spoke to were desperate for food and constantly asked for its whereabouts. While they were able to assist with medical supplies, they stressed the urgency of returning with food.
Reiterating the request and expressing worries regarding escalating conflict in the southern region, Dr Peeperkorn clarified that ensuring the safe and timely relocation of personnel and resources has been hindered due to the need for coordination before any movements can occur in Gaza, particularly in the south, which often results in delays.
Dr. Peeperkorn stated that in order to efficiently reach people in Gaza, it was crucial to not only increase the amount of essential supplies being brought in, but also improve the accessibility of humanitarian aid and workers within the area.
Based on data from Gaza’s Health Ministry, the number of fatalities in the region is 23,084, with 70% of those being women and children. Additionally, approximately 59,000 individuals have sustained injuries, which accounts for about 2.7% of Gaza’s total population.
The United Nations is fully prepared to provide assistance to those affected by the disaster.
The WHO representative emphasized that the UN and its collaborators are fully prepared to provide aid to the residents of Gaza, who have suffered from extensive airstrikes by the Israeli military. These airstrikes were carried out in response to acts of terror led by Hamas in southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,200 individuals starting on October 7th.
However, conflicts and instructions to leave in the central and southern parts of Gaza have made it difficult for hospitalized individuals to receive medical care and for ambulances to reach them. Dr. Peeperkorn noted that this has also posed challenges for the World Health Organization (WHO) to deliver essential medical supplies and fuel to facilities in need.
Three hospitals, namely European Gaza Hospital, Nasser Medical Complex and Al-Aqsa, located in close proximity to evacuation areas are a crucial resource for approximately two million individuals in the southern region, as stated by a WHO representative based in Jerusalem.
Medical professionals escaping to save themselves
Dr. Peeperkorn stated that the limited supply flow and restricted access for medical staff in numerous hospitals, out of fear for their safety, is a dangerous situation that will result in more hospitals becoming non-operational, as seen in the northern regions. The global community must take action to prevent this from occurring.
An example of the limited opportunities for crucial humanitarian efforts in the enclave is the United Nations health agency’s inability to access northern Gaza for a period of two weeks.
Six planned humanitarian missions by the World Health Organization have been cancelled since December 26, according to the United Nations health agency. Despite being prepared to deliver aid, Dr. Peeperkorn stated that they have not been granted the necessary permissions to proceed safely.
The United Nations spokesperson reports that requests for secure passage are hindering the response to humanitarian aid efforts.
On Tuesday, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric stated that the refusal to coordinate movement requests was causing significant delays in delivering aid to Gaza.
During the noon press briefing in New York, he stated that from January 1st, humanitarian organizations have asked for 20 convoys, but only five were approved. Two of them were also unable to continue due to delays or impassable routes.
He stated that only three individuals went to the most severely affected region north of Gaza, but there were modifications made to the plan that ultimately affected operations.
Despite the significant obstacles in providing humanitarian aid, aid organizations have offered medical care to approximately 500,000 individuals since October 7th.
However, the demands are significant – with only about 1/3 of the 350+ formal and informal shelters for internally displaced individuals in Gaza having access to any type of medical facilities.
According to him, refusing to provide fuel to water and sanitation facilities is causing numerous individuals to lack access to safe drinking water. This is also leading to a higher chance of sewage overflow, thereby greatly increasing the likelihood of communicable diseases spreading.