UN official raises alarm as humanitarian crisis in Gaza keeps worsening

The current humanitarian program in Gaza "is no longer functioning well," said Martin Griffiths, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at a press conference on Thursday.

Martin Griffiths expressed his grave concerns, saying the relentless military assault has obliterated the once-established safe zones, rendering the existing humanitarian plan ineffective.

He said that the initial design, aimed at protecting civilians and facilitating aid delivery, has crumbled, consequently, what remains is a disjointed, opportunistic response lacking reliability and sustainability.

Griffith, who also serves as a UN undersecretary-general, underscored the difficulties in planning and executing humanitarian deliveries at present. He said the absence of safety guarantees could expose convoys to the risk of interruptions, attacks and diversions.

The pressure on the two million people of Gaza intensifies as they are forcibly pushed further south, with no safe zones in sight and an uncertain future, he said.

Griffith underlined that on December 6, in an unprecedented move, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, emphasizing the imminent threat to international peace and security posed by what's going on in Gaza.

A man inspects the damage of a destroyed building following Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, December 7, 2023. /CFP

A man inspects the damage of a destroyed building following Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, December 7, 2023. /CFP

However, the senior UN official mentioned the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing as a promising sign. Discussions have been underway within a committee known as the COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories), involving representation from Israel, the United States, Egyptians and the United Nations.

According to him, an OCHA representative is currently in Jordan actively coordinating potential aid deliveries through the Allenby Bridge, a crossing point between Jordan and the West Bank. Such deliveries can significantly enhance the logistical process and base for humanitarian operations.

The OCHA chief underlined that humanitarian agencies remain unwavering in their commitment to assisting the people of Gaza. He called the international community to "not lose faith in the possibilities of humanity."

An estimated 1.9 million people are displaced in Gaza (about 85 percent of the population), lacking necessities such as food, water, dignified shelter, sanitation facilities and medical care, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

A recent phone-based survey by the UN World Food Program showed that between 83 and 97 percent of families have no adequate food, and in some areas as many as 90 percent of households report spending a full day and night without any food, some even having no food for as many as 10 days in the last month.

The head of medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also knowing as Doctors Without Borderssaid on Thursday that Gaza faces a catastrophe extending far beyond a humanitarian crisis, describing the situation in the densely populated enclave as chaotic.

"It is a humanitarian catastrophe. It is a chaotic situation, and I'm extremely worried that very soon people will be in a mode of just trying to survive, which will come with very severe consequences," warned Christos Christou, the international president of MSF.

(With input from agencies)

08 Dec 2023

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