UN humanitarians are warning the level of assistance for many Gazans is now “almost catastrophic”.
The development came as UN aid coordination office OCHA in its latest update on Wednesday evening reported ongoing “intense” Israeli bombardment of the occupied territory and rocket fire into Israel by Palestinian armed groups.
According to the UN World Food Programme, WFP, the continuing violence has made it nearly impossible to distribute aid relief much beyond Rafah in the south of the Strip, where well over 1.2 million people now shelter in dangerously overcrowded conditions under plastic sheeting.
“Areas beyond Rafah, it’s almost catastrophic assistance”, said WFP MENA Senior Communications Officer and Spokesperson Abeer Atefa. Her comments echoed repeated appeals for greater access by other UN agencies working to reach all five Gaza governorates.
In the first two weeks of the year, humanitarian agencies planned 29 missions to deliver lifesaving supplies north of Wadi Gaza; only one in four made it after Israeli authorities denied the rest, according to OCHA.
The UN aid wing further noted that two additional missions originally coordinated with the Israeli authorities “could not be completed due to the non-viability of allocated routes or excessive delays at checkpoints, which did not allow the missions to succeed during the safe operating windows”.
Of the more than 100 Israelis still believed held in Gaza, it’s been reported that around 45 require treatment for chronic diseases or other lifesaving medicines.
Meanwhile, amid ongoing bombardment and heavy clashes in Gaza, more than 160 Gazans died in the last two days and another 350 were injured, OCHA said, citing health officials in the enclave, bringing the total number of Palestinians confirmed killed since the war erupted to well over 24,400.
Three Israeli soldiers were also reportedly killed in clashes in Gaza on Tuesday and Wednesday, OCHA noted, meaning that 191 Israeli fighters have died since 7 October, when a coordinated Hamas-led incursions into Israel left around 1,200 dead and some 250 taken hostage, sparking massive Israeli retaliation.
The devastation caused by the war has now left “only one of the three water pipelines from Israel into Gaza” functioning, OCHA also warned earlier this week.
Amid already record levels of diarrhoea and other diseases caused by poor sanitation and hunger, the UN aid office noted that the Deir al Balah water pipeline – whose capacity is close to 17,000 cubic metres of water per day – urgently needs repairs.
“Water, hygiene, and sanitation (WASH) partners have estimated that repairs could take up to four weeks, even allowing for sustained access and the necessary supplies,” OCHA said.
War on children continues, warns UNICEF deputy chief
“Since my last visit, the situation has gone from catastrophic to near collapse”, he said in a statement.
“UNICEF has described the Gaza Strip as the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. We have said this is a war on children. But these truths do not seem to be getting through.
“Of the nearly 25,000 people reported to have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the escalation in hostilities, up to 70 per cent are reported to be women and children. The killing of children must cease immediately.”
Among those he met was an 11-year-old girl called Sama at Al-Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.
“She was skipping with friends when they were hit by shrapnel from a bombardment. The shrapnel sliced through Sama’s abdomen, forcing her into surgery to remove her spleen. She is recovering in hospital, isolated from everyone around her because she is now immunocompromised in a war zone full of disease and infection.”
He also described meeting 13-year-old Ibrahim: “He was in a designated shelter with his family, in an area they were told was safe, when everything collapsed around them. Ibrahim’s hand was badly damaged and quickly became infected. Without medicine, gangrene took hold and he ultimately lost his arm during an amputation without anaesthetic.”
He said these children and their families “can’t wait any longer for a humanitarian ceasefire”, also reminding that there are two Israeli children still being held hostage by Palestinian militants, who must be released safely and unconditionally.
“This cannot go on.”