21 February 2024
Gazans ‘hanging by a thread’, warns WFP
In a statement, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it has reluctantly had to pause aid deliveries to north Gaza until conditions are in place that allow for safe distributions.“The decision to pause deliveries to the north of the Gaza Strip has not been taken lightly, as we know it means the situation there will deteriorate further and more people risk dying of hunger,” the agency said.It added that it is “deeply committed” to urgently reaching desperate people across the war-torn enclave “but the safety and security to deliver critical food aid – and for the people receiving it – must be ensured”.In December, the UN and humanitarian partners had warned of the risk of famine in northern Gaza by May unless conditions there improved decisively.The situation is particularly dire for children, pregnant women and new mothers, with one in six children acutely malnourished.‘Facing gunfire and explosive anger’WFP said that its deliveries to northern Gaza had resumed on Sunday after a three-week suspension following the strike on an UN Palestine relief agency (UNRWA) truck and due to the absence of a functioning humanitarian notification system.On Sunday, as one of its convoys moved towards Gaza City, it was surrounded by crowds of hungry people close to the Wadi Gaza checkpoint.“First fending off multiple attempts by people trying to climb aboard our trucks, then facing gunfire once we entered Gaza City, our team was able to distribute a small quantity of the food along the way,” the UN agency said.On Monday, the second convoy’s journey north faced “complete chaos and violence” due to the collapse of civil order, WFP added, noting that several trucks were looted between Khan Younis and Deir al Balah and a truck driver was beaten.“The remaining flour was spontaneously distributed off the trucks in Gaza city, amidst high tension and explosive anger.”Urgent effort to restore aidIn the statement, WFP emphasized that it will seek ways to resume deliveries in a responsible manner as soon as possible.It underscored the need “significantly” higher volumes of food coming into the Gaza Strip from multiple routes, and for crossing points to the north of Gaza to be open.“A functioning humanitarian notification system and a stable communication network are needed. And security, for our staff and partners as well as for the people we serve, must be facilitated,” the agency said. “Gaza is hanging by a thread and WFP must be enabled to reverse the path towards famine for thousands of desperately hungry people.”Evacuations from Nasser hospitalMeanwhile, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) continued evacuating patients from the Nasser hospital complex in Khan Younis, amid continuing Israeli military operations and access restrictions.The health agency led two successful missions, evacuating 32 critical patients, including two children, from the complex on Sunday and Monday.The high-risk missions were conducted in close partnership with the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).The situation at the hospital continues to remain dire.It has no electricity or running water, and medical waste and garbage are creating a breeding ground for disease., WHO said.Staff said the destruction around the hospital was “indescribable”, noting that the area was surrounded by burnt and destroyed buildings, heavy layers of debris, with no road accessible roads.