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    HomeAidSecurity Council hears Gaza famine 'almost inevitable' unless aid is massively scaled...

    Security Council hears Gaza famine ‘almost inevitable’ unless aid is massively scaled up

    5:33 PM: That’s it from the Security Council this Tuesday when the dire aid situation and increasing  threat of famine was front and centre during an impassioned discussion in the chamber, led off by a detailed UN humanitarian update via videolink.

    Children wait to receive food in the city of Rafah, southern Gaza.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • A trio of briefers from the key UN aid agencies issued grim warnings to the Council on the situation facing civilians tonight on the ground in Gaza
    • “If nothing changes, a famine is imminent in northern Gaza,” warns the World Food Programme (WFP) deputy executive director
    • At least 576,000 people are “facing catastrophic levels of deprivation and starvation” across the enclave, according to deputy chief of the UN humanitarian agency, OCHA
    • FAO’s deputy director says “essential first steps in eliminating a risk of famine” are a cessation of hostilities and restoration of humanitarian space to deliver lifesaving aid and restored basic services, like water and electricity
    • Some Council members proposed action plans to potentially end hostilities beginning with an immediate ceasefire and hostage releases
    • Algeria’s ambassador accused Israel of using starvation as a tool of war
    • For summaries of UN meetings, visit our colleagues at the UN Meetings Coverage in English and French

    5:28 PM

    You cannot stay silent: Arab Group

    On behalf of the Arab Group, Tunisia Permanent Representative Tarek Ladeb said the spectre of famine looms in Gaza because of the inability of the international community to agree on an immediate ceasefire and the stubbornness of Israel, the occupying power.

    Hundreds of humanitarian aid trucks are piled up along the entry points without being able to enter the Gaza. This blockade silently starves and deprives the Palestinian people of all means of survival in flagrant violation of international law and international humanitarian law, he said.

    The international community and the Security Council cannot remain silent any longer.

    He told ambassadors the Arab Group reiterates the need to adopt an immediate ceasefire and to put an end to the plan of forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.

    The group also insists on the essential role UNRWA plays on the ground and warns against any attempt to broaden the mandate of the United Nations coordinator to the detriment of the Palestine refugee relief agency.

    5:14 PM

    Plans to open more border crossings: Israel

    Israel’s Deputy Permanent Representative, Brett Jonathan Miller, said his delegation is committed to improving humanitarian assistance in Gaza, easing the entry of aid at the Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossings, with further border crossing openings also under discussion.

    Brett Jonathan Miller, Deputy Permanent Representative of Israel, addresses the UN Security Council  meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Brett Jonathan Miller, Deputy Permanent Representative of Israel, addresses the UN Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Indeed, there is “no limit” to the amount of aid that can be sent to the population of Gaza, he said, noting that most aid requests are approved.

    “These are the facts; no one can claim otherwise,” he said, adding that 20 bakeries in Gaza now produce more than two million pita breads a day.

    Claims made to the contrary inside the Council Chamber are just attempts to propagate Hamas lies and to distract attention away from the inability to efficiently distribute aid, he continued.

    Israel is not holding up the trucks waiting at the borders, he said, adding that, clearly, the delays in aid delivery are the UN’s fault. 

    In this vein, he said the problem of aid diversion in Gaza cannot be ignored. For its part, Israel will continue to demand the release of all hostages, he said, calling on the Security Council to do everything in its power to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

    4:50 PM

    Famine already underway: Palestine

    Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine Riyad Mansour told ambassadors that in reality, a famine is underway in Gaza and getting worse every day that Israel carries on its “criminal aggression”.

    “We must stop for a moment and consider what this truly means,” he said.

    “What it means to forage for food in the rubble, sand and trash, to eat animal feed or food ravaged by rats.”

    He said Israel was the architect of this human and humanitarian catastrophe, which it has purposely designed to collectively punish Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians. 

    That this catastrophic famine and genocide has been allowed to happen at all and continue for this long “brings shame on all of us, not least this Security Council”, Mr. Mansour added.

    Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, addresses the UN Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, addresses the UN Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Israel’s weaponization of food to punish the Palestinian people is not a secret. It was declared months ago, in October 2023 by the highest-ranking Israeli Government and military officials, some of whom publicly stated that such policies would hasten the decline of humanitarian conditions and provoke a mass exodus from Gaza or a so-called “voluntary migration” of this “demographic threat”.

    This Council must uphold its responsibilities, he said. 

    Rectifying the current abhorrent situation requires three immediate steps: a ceasefire now to halt the Israeli aggression; the unimpeded, accelerated delivery of humanitarian aid at scale throughout all of Gaza; and accountability measures for all the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by Israel. 

    4:48 PM

    Heated exchanges between US and Russia

    Following Russia’s statement, the Russian and US delegates exchanged heated comments, with Mr. Wood saying that Russia was in no position to criticize any country while Moscow continues to bomb Ukraine.

    Replying, Mr. Nebenzia said the US should be ashamed of itself, trying to compare the situations in Gaza and Ukraine.

    Noting that Washington had invaded Iraq and other countries, the Russian ambassador proposed that “we do not turn the Security Council into a duel between the United States and the Russian Federation”.

    4:34 PM

    Russia: Council could adopt sanctions

    Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of the Russian Federation addresses the Security Council  meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of the Russian Federation addresses the Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said reading the “white note” from UN humanitarians “makes your blood run cold”, adding that the current situation includes massive shortages and diseases running rampant through Gaza. 

    There is no issue concerning the availability of aid, he added, as Council members saw for themselves during a visit to the Rafah crossing some weeks ago.

    However, due to bureaucratic obstacles, delays have ensued, and ongoing hostilities make food self-sufficiency impossible.

    An immediate ceasefire is the only way to prevent famine in Gaza along with ensuring that Israel complies with international law, the ambassador said. 

    Unfortunately, the United States has blocked efforts to stop the violence in Gaza, and its proposed draft is yet another “license to kill”, he said, calling on Council members to reject the proposal. Indeed, it may be time for the Council to consider adopting sanctions, he said.

    4:08 PM

    ‘Stop fighting immediately’: UK proposes 3-step plan

    United Kingdom Ambassador Barbara Woodward said to address the desperate situation in Gaza, three things need to happen, beginning with a call for all parties to the conflict to stop fighting immediately.

    Ambassador Barbara Woodward of the United Kingdom addresses the Security Council  meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Ambassador Barbara Woodward of the United Kingdom addresses the Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    “This is crucial to get aid in and hostages out,” she said, adding that progress can then be made towards a sustainable and permanent ceasefire.

    Second, she continued, the Council should urge Israel to allow more aid into Gaza and to facilitate distribution throughout the Strip. 

    That covers the need for more crossings, open for longer, including Kerem Shalom and Nitzana, in addition to unencumbered access for aid coming from Jordan and the full opening of Ashdod Port, she said, underscoring that aid airdrops cannot substitute for land-based delivery, and humanitarians need safe and unhindered access to the north through the Erez crossing now.

    Finally, she said, the UN and humanitarian partners need greater protection and access to the tools needed to accomplish their mission. In this vein, she called for an immediate pause in fighting then progress towards a sustainable ceasefire.

    The UN agency warnings voiced in the Council show there must be action “now”, she said, as “this is the only way to avert famine and alleviate suffering.”

    4:05 PM

    France: Blocking humanitarian access is ‘unjustifiable’

    French Ambassador Nicholas de Rivière said “the lack of sufficient humanitarian access to a population in an absolute humanitarian emergency is unjustifiable.”

    With Jordan, France carried out yesterday a new airdrop of id directly to Gaza as well as a new shipment of humanitarian cargo to support Egyptian hospitals, he said.

    Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière of France addresses the UN Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière of France addresses the UN Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    At the same time, France’s President highlighted the extreme urgency for concluding an agreement on a ceasefire which guarantees the protection of all civilians and the massive entry of emergency aid.

    France reaffirms its firm opposition to a ground offensive in Rafah, which would lead to another unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe, he stated.

    “As we call for a ceasefire, France reiterates that all hostages must be released immediately and unconditionally, as required by our Council resolutions 2712 and 2720,” he said. “The Council must also be able to clearly condemn the terrorist attacks and sexual violence used as weapons of war by Hamas and other terrorist groups on 7 October. It must also call for a decisive step in the construction of a two-State political solution.”

    4:00 PM

    China: Israel must open all aid access

    Ambassador Dai Bing, Deputy Permanent Representative of China, said Palestine refugee agency UNRWA is the “lifeline” for the people in Gaza.

    Expressing support for the UN’s independent, impartial investigation, he said Israel should cooperate in that regard. Meanwhile, the international community, and particularly the major donors, must promptly resume funding for the UN agency.

    For more than one month, aid supplies into Gaza have been halved, he continued. In this regard, he called on Israel to open all land, sea and air access routes to ensure the unimpeded delivery of aid. 

    At the same time, a ceasefire is needed, he said, adding that China will continue to work towards efforts to resolve the conflict in Gaza and achieve peace in the Middle East.

    3:54 PM

    ‘Israel must do more’: US

    Deputy Permanent Representative Robert A. Wood of the United States addresses the UN Security Council  meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Deputy Permanent Representative Robert A. Wood of the United States addresses the UN Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Deputy Permanent Ambassador for the US Robert Wood said the US welcomed the discussion on the food crisis, saying that promoting food security was a “longstanding” priority in Washington.

    The US has urged Israel to keep border crossings open, meet humanitarian needs at scale and support the rapid and safe delivery of relief across all of Gaza.

    “Simply put, Israel must do more,” he said, expressing profound concern for the wellbeing of more than one million Gazans stuck in the border city.

    He said it was “unconscionable” that Hamas fighters were continuing to embed themselves among civilian buildings such as hospitals and schools, reiterating the call for all parties to uphold international humanitarian law.

    No Rafah offensive

    A major ground offensive should not proceed in Rafah “under the current circumstances”, he spelt out.

    He said the US had worked tirelessly to get more aid into Gaza since the start of the war, pressing to open Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing. 

    He added the US had called consistently for the protection of humanitarians operating throughout Gaza and called on Israel to improve deconfliction coordination.

    “We also recognize the fearless efforts of UN humanitarian workers who work under great personal danger to meet the humanitarian needs of those inside Gaza.”

    He reiterated that it was essential to release the more than 130 hostages still being held inside the enclave, promising the US would continue to work towards a hostage deal along with a temporary ceasefire.

    3:38 PM

    Israel uses starvation as a tool of war: Algeria

    Algeria’s Ambassador Amar Benjama said the people of Gaza are facing a harrowing dilemma of being forced to decide between the immediate threat of perishing during the bombings or enduring an agonizing demise due to starvation. 

    Israel is using starvation as a tool of war, and Council resolutions are proving to be ineffective on the ground, he said.

    “The ongoing attack on Gaza is not a war against Hamas; it is a collective punishment for the Palestinian civilian people. Our silence grants a license to kill and starve the Palestinian population. This Council must urgently call, demand for a ceasefire as our inaction equals complicity in this crime,” he said.

    3:20 PM

    Record levels of child malnutrition: WFP

    Carl Skau, World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Executive Director, said the Famine Review Committee has warned of a real prospect of famine by May, with 500,000 people at risk if the threat is allowed to materialize. Today, food aid is required by almost the entire population of 2.2 million people.

    “Gaza is seeing the worst level of child malnutrition anywhere in the world,” he said. One child in every six under the age of two is acutely malnourished.

    WFP is ready to swiftly expand and scale up operations if there is a ceasefire agreement. Immediate action is required to enable a huge increase in the volume of food and other humanitarian supplies.

    Carl Skau (on screen), WFP’s Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, briefs the UN Security Council  meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Carl Skau (on screen), WFP’s Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, briefs the UN Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    “We need a safe and functioning operating environment for humanitarian staff, the port of Ashdod and the Karni crossing to be open, a working humanitarian notification system and a stable communications network,” he said.

    If nothing changes, a famine is imminent in northern Gaza. Meanwhile, in the south of Gaza, WFP and partners are on the ground, delivering food as it comes to shelters, to makeshift camps, and to shops.

    “But, we are unable to provide regular or sufficient food to people who badly need it, he said. “The fact remains that without safe and greatly expanded access, aid workers cannot mount a relief operation at the scale required to reverse the severe humanitarian crisis now gripping Gaza.

    “It is essential we avert a famine, and this requires much more than just food supplies. Basic services must also be restored, including health services, electricity networks and water and sanitation pipelines,” he said, adding that UNWRA is the only organization with the ability to oversee and manage this vital infrastructure in Gaza.

    3:10 PM

    Mass destruction of food system: FAO

    Maurizio Martina, Deputy Director General of FAO, painted a grim landscape in Gaza at a time when at least 378,000 of its residents are experiencing the most severe phase of acute food insecurity.

    “The key findings are troubling,” he warned, providing a sample of the severe impact of the war, from a decimated fishing sector, which provided livelihoods for over 100,000 Gazans, to the widespread death of livestock from airstrikes or the lack of water and fodder.

    As of 15 February, 46.2 per cent of all cropland was assessed to be damaged, he said, emphasizing that agricultural infrastructure has been devastated, with the highest levels of destruction including sheep and dairy farms.

    Maurizio Martina (on screen), Deputy Director General  of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), briefs the UN Security Council  meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Maurizio Martina (on screen), Deputy Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), briefs the UN Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Over one quarter of wells had been destroyed, with destruction most significant in north Gaza and Gaza City, and 339 hectares of greenhouses had been destroyed, most severely in Gaza City, north Gaza and Khan Younis. The harvest of olives and citrus fruits, which provides an important source of income, has been heavily impacted by the hostilities.

    Meanwhile, restrictions on aid deliveries had rendered impossible meaningful humanitarian operations, he said.

    Restore humanitarian space

    A cessation of hostilities and restoration of humanitarian space to deliver multisectoral assistance and restore services are “essential first steps in eliminating a risk of famine”, Mr. Martina said.

    “A critical priority is to restore safe and sustained humanitarian access throughout the Gaza Strip and to all those in need of lifesaving assistance,” he said.

    In addition, basic services must be restored, including cross-border water pipelines, telecommunications, electricity distribution and health facilities, he said.

    “All parties must respect their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law and protect civilians,” Mr. Martina said, adding that an immediate ceasefire and peace are a prerequisite for food security.

    3:09 PM

    Concluding his briefing, OCHA‘s Mr. Rajasingham said: “Food security experts warn of complete agricultural collapse in northern Gaza by May if conditions persist, with fields and productive assets damaged, destroyed or inaccessible. Many have had little choice but to abandon productive farmland due to evacuation orders and repeated displacement.”

    The hostilities have caused widespread shortages, heavy damage to water infrastructure and scarcity of products and even opportunities to fish alongside rising hunger and the looming risk of famine, he said, calling for solutions to scale up humanitarian aid deliveries.

    Famine is ‘almost inevitable’ without action

    Ramesh Rajasingham (on screen), Head and Representative of OCHA in Geneva and Director of the Coordination Division, briefs the UN Security Council  meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    Ramesh Rajasingham (on screen), Head and Representative of OCHA in Geneva and Director of the Coordination Division, briefs the UN Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

    “The stark reality, however, is that a response at the level required will be impossible without immediate and concerted action by the parties, the Security Council, other Member States and the wider international community,” he said, adding that the white note submitted to members sets out recommendations for this action.

    At this stage, very little will be possible while hostilities continue and while there is a risk that they will spread into the overcrowded areas in the south of Gaza, he said, reiterating the call for a ceasefire.

    “If nothing is done, we fear widespread famine in Gaza is almost inevitable and the conflict will have many more victims,” he said.

    3:03 PM

    Guyana hold the presidency of the Security Council for February and their Permanent Representative Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett has just gavelled the meeting open. 

    ‘Complete agricultural collapse’ looms by May in northern Gaza

    OCHA deputy chief Ramesh Rajasingham told ambassadors the situation in Gaza was grave with practically the entire population left to rely on “woefully inadequate humanitarian food assistance to survive.”

    He said there was every chance, the situation would simply get worse.

    “Military operations, insecurity and extensive restrictions on the entry and delivery of essential goods have decimated food production and agriculture,” he added. 

    2:30 PM – The UN humanitarian affairs coordination office, OCHA, said in information formally submitted on 22 February to ambassadors – known as a white note – that at least 576,000 people were “facing catastrophic levels of deprivation and starvation” across Gaza.

    The briefing is happening under the Council’s agenda item on protecting civilians in armed conflict. The Deputy Director of OCHA is due to speak alongside the deputy heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP).

    Guyana and Switzerland, who are the Council focal points on conflict and hunger, called for the meeting along with Algeria and Slovenia in response to the alarm raised by OCHA.

    The official system used by the UN and many other relief agencies to measure food insecurity (the IPC classification index) warned that the entire 2.3 million population of Gaza would be facing acute levels of insecurity by this month – the highest share ever recorded.

    Famine risk, wasting among children

    The white note says at least 576,000 are close to famine, adding that the figures are conservative, and the risk of famine is growing every day that the war and obstacles to humanitarian relief continue.

    The Global Nutrition Cluster reported on 18 February that around one in six children under age two are now experiencing wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition.

    Steps towards a ceasefire

    Intense fighting continues between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants. Amid repeated calls to end the hostilities, negotiations are continuing between the warring parties, overseen by Qatar, which are aimed at securing a deal for a ceasefire and sequenced release of more hostages still being held in Gaza, according to news reports.

    Meanwhile at UN Headquarters, it is being reported that the United States has circulated a revised draft resolution to Security Council members calling for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza along with hostage releases as soon as possible and for Israel to refrain from any invasion of Rafah “under current circumstances”.

    The US vetoed the last resolution put forward by Algeria demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire on 20 February, arguing it would destabilize substantial talks going on in Qatar,

    Lifesaving aid barriers

    Just last week, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process briefed the Council, while medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières reported that a pattern of attacks by Israeli forces against hospitals and other civilian buildings, together with humanitarian personnel and convoys, was “either intentional or indicative of reckless incompetence”.

    Briefing reporters in New York ahead of the Security Council meeting, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said there were multiple factors holding up the aid effort, primarily the lack of ceasefire, “a lack of respect for international law…a breakdown of law and order in Gaza” and a simple lack of trucks to move vital supplies.

    “There has been very little, if any, effective coordination with Israeli authorities on deconfliction”, and the ability to move convoys to the north, he added.

    Find our latest story on the humanitarian effort here.

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