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    Gaza: 23 million tonnes of debris ‘will take years to clear’; acute malnutrition doubles in a month

    In a fresh alert about the disastrous humanitarian emergency still unfolding in the enclave, the UN agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, said on Friday that it will “take years” before the Strip is made safe again.

    The lives of more than two million Gazans have been devastated by daily Israeli bombardment, since Hamas-led terror attacks in Israel on 7 October, the UN agency noted in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

    As the largest relief agency in Gaza, UNWRA continues to provide lifesaving supplies and services to more than 1.5 million displaced people in the south of the enclave. The agency runs shelters for more than one million people, providing them with humanitarian relief and primary healthcare.

    No let-up in violence

    Lifesaving humanitarian work has continued amid intense Israeli bombardment and ground operations – as well as heavy fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups.

    In its latest update on the emergency, the UN aid coordination office, OCHA, reported ongoing violence “across much of the Gaza Strip, particularly in the Hamad area of Khan Younis…The hostilities are causing further civilian casualties, displacement and destruction of houses and other civilian infrastructure.”

    OCHA noted that mine action partners are now carrying out “assessments of explosive threats” and educating Gazans about the dangers. 

    “Larger-scale assessments are urgently required, but response efforts have been hampered by restrictions on the import of humanitarian mine action supplies and authorization requirements for the deployment of specialized personnel.”

    Funding boost

    The news came as Australia became the latest country to announce that it intended to resume funding UNRWA, which saw international donor support evaporate, amid Israeli allegations that some of the agency’s staff had participated in the 7 October Hamas-led terror attacks in Israel.

    A high-level UN investigation continues into the claims, which UNRWA is also complementing with its own inquiry. Shortly after the allegations were made public, nine UNRWA staff were dismissed.

    Seaborne aid contribution 

    Meanwhile, efforts to secure a new maritime aid route from Cyprus to Gaza continued on Friday as the NGO ship Open Arms moved closer to the Gaza coastline.

    Open Arms vessel loaded with food and water and a dedicated crew ready to assist the most vulnerable in Gaza.

    The vessel, which open-source satellites showed moored off the coast of Gaza City in the north of the enclave on Friday morning, left Larnaca in southern Cyprus on Tuesday with 200 tonnes of relief supplies. These are to be delivered ashore once a jetty is built south of Gaza City, according to reports.

    The initiative involves UN-partner World Central Kitchen and the search-and-rescue charity Open Arms, reportedly in coordination with the Israeli authorities and international partners.

    Malnutrition doubles in northern Gaza: UNICEF

    One in three children under two in the Northern Gaza Strip suffer from acute malnutrition – double the rate of 15.6 per cent in January, UN Children’s Fund UNICEF said on Friday.

    Malnutrition among children is spreading fast and reaching devastating and unprecedented levels.

    At least 23 children in Northern Gaza Strip have reportedly died from malnutrition and dehydration in recent weeks, adding to the mounting toll of children killed in the Strip in this current conflict – about 13,450 reported by the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

    Nutrition screenings conducted by UNICEF and partners in the north in February found that 4.5 per cent of the children in shelters and health centers suffer from severe wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition.

    “The speed at which this catastrophic child malnutrition crisis in Gaza has unfolded is shocking, especially when desperately needed assistance has been at the ready just a few miles away,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director.

    “We have repeatedly attempted to deliver additional aid and we have repeatedly called for the access challenges we have faced for months to be addressed. Instead, the situation for children is getting worse by each passing day. Our efforts in providing life-saving aid are being hampered by unnecessary restrictions, and those are costing children their lives.”

    Screenings conducted for the first time in Khan Younis, in the middle area of the Gaza Strip, found 28 per cent of children under two have acute malnutrition, more than 10 per cent of which have severe wasting.

     

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