Thu 22 Feb 2024 10:19 am - Jerusalem Time

UN and international officials call to prevent a worse catastrophe in Gaza

The heads of 19 UN and international agencies said that civilians in Gaza are in grave danger as the world watches. They reiterated that there is no safe place in Gaza, and called on world leaders to "prevent a worse catastrophe."

This came in a joint statement issued by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, the highest platform for humanitarian coordination in the United Nations system.

Officials explained that more than three-quarters of citizens in Gaza have been forced to leave their homes several times, and face severe shortages of food, water, sanitation, and health care, which are the basic necessities for survival.

They added that the health system is still systematically deteriorating, with disastrous consequences, noting that as of February 19, only 12 hospitals out of 36 that have the capacity to accommodate inpatients are partially operational.

The statement stated that more than 370 attacks targeted health care facilities in Gaza since October 7.

The heads of UN and international agencies explained in their statement that diseases are rampant, famine looms on the horizon, water is scarce, basic infrastructure has been destroyed, food production has stopped, and one million children face daily shocks.

They added that Rafah, which has become the final destination for more than a million displaced, hungry and traumatized people crammed into a small piece of land, has turned into another battlefield in this brutal conflict.

They warned that further escalation of violence in this densely populated region would cause large numbers of casualties, and could also deal a fatal blow to the already suffering humanitarian response.

They said that humanitarian workers - themselves displaced and facing bombing, death, restrictions on movement and the collapse of civil order - were continuing their efforts to get aid to those in need, but they warned that in the face of many obstacles, including restrictions on safety and movement, they could not do more. 

The officials said in a statement by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee that no amount of humanitarian response will compensate for the months of deprivation that families in Gaza have suffered.

They stated that in order to save the humanitarian operation so that they can at the very least provide basic needs, including medicine, drinking water, food and shelter as temperatures drop, there must be an immediate ceasefire, the protection of civilians and the infrastructure on which they depend, and the provision of reliable entry points that allow the entry of aid from all possible crossings, including to northern Gaza, ensuring unhindered passage for wide distribution throughout Gaza, without refusal, delay or obstacles to access, in addition to providing an effective humanitarian notification system that allows all humanitarian workers and supplies to move. Inside Gaza, aid is provided safely, roads are passable, neighborhoods are cleared of explosive ordnance, a stable communications network is provided that allows humanitarian workers to move in safety and security, and UNRWA, the backbone of humanitarian operations in Gaza, receives the resources it needs to provide assistance, save lives, and stop campaigns that seek to discredit the United Nations and NGOs that are doing their best to save lives.

Officials emphasized that humanitarian agencies remain committed to doing their work, despite the risks, but they cannot be left alone to deal with the situation.

The officials called on Israel to fulfill its legal obligations, under international humanitarian law and human rights law, to provide food and medical supplies and facilitate aid operations.


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UN and international officials call to prevent a worse catastrophe in Gaza