'Scattered Measures' in Humanitarian Aid for Gaza Are Not Enough UN Secretary General

The UN has called for an end to scattered humanitarian aid to Gaza, where a humanitarian crisis is unfolding. Credit: UNRWA
  • by Naureen Hossain (united nations)
  • Inter Press Service

On Friday April 5, 2024, Secretary-General António Guterres spoke before reporters to mark six months since the October 7 attacks, where 1,200 civilians in Israel were killed in a terrorist attack led by Hamas, which has since led to a military campaign by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) into Gaza.

The conflicts, bombardments and airstrikes that have played out over the last six months have resulted in over 30,000 deaths, more than two million internally displaced persons, widespread destruction of infrastructure, and an oncoming famine. Efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to civilians have been repeatedly blocked and even attacked.

“When the gates to aid are closed, the doors to starvation are opened,” said Guterres. “More than half the population—over a million people—is facing catastrophic hunger. Children in Gaza today are dying for lack of food and water. This is incomprehensible and entirely avoidable.

Guterres made his remarks in the wake of the deaths of seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen, whose convoy was hit by an Israeli military strike on April 1. The attack has sparked renewed outrage. Since October 7, over 220 aid workers have been killed, including 179 UN personnel.

“In its speed, scale, and inhumane ferocity, the war in Gaza is the deadliest of conflicts—for civilians, for aid workers, for journalists, for health workers, and for our own colleagues,” said Guterres. "We honor all humanitarian workers who have been killed in this conflict, and pledge to remember their commitment and sacrifice.”

“Six months on, we are at the brink: of mass starvation, regional conflagration. A total loss of faith in global standards and norms. It’s time to step back from that brink—to silence the guns, to ease the horrible suffering, and to stop a potential famine before it is too late.”

The repeated, targeted attacks on humanitarian aid come with consequences, as World Central Kitchen announced that they would pause their operations in Gaza out of concern for the safety of their staff. This comes at a time when Gaza is facing an “unprecedented food insecurity crisis”, and is “teetering on the edge of famine,"  according to Ramesh Rajeshsingham, Director, Coordination Division of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who warned the Security Council during its session on Friday.

In his statement to the Security Council, he warned that the population of Gaza was having to rely on limited, inadequate food assistance to survive. In recent weeks, 31 people, including 28 children, were already believed to have starved to death. “It is a situation that requires concerted action now; waiting for a retrospective famine classification is indefensible,” he said.

Also speaking before the Security Council, Save the Children CEO Janti Soeripto condemned the current conditions that have crippled the humanitarian response in Gaza. She remarked that the “systemic and deliberate denial” of aid has caused children to suffer disproportionately, as they now risk dying of acute malnutrition and starvation. For aid workers in the region that must deal with multiple, intersecting needs of food, shelter, and health, their “heroic efforts are fighting against an overwhelming tide of need."

“We are hearing world leaders emphasize the importance of access, calls for deconfliction, protection of civilians, speedy investigations, lessons learned, upholding humanitarian law, and so on. This discourse creates the false impression that the humanitarian system in Gaza is being prioritized. It is not. Words belie the response,” she said.

“Stop pretending that the protection of civilians is prioritized here. We are overwhelmed with impediments. Human life is not being prioritized here, not of civilians, not of children, and certainly not of humanitarian workers.”

Following the attacks on April 1, the IDF carried out an investigation into the attacks through a military task force, which seems to have acknowledged responsibility for their role in the attacks. Since then, there have been calls for an independent investigation into the attacks, including from the Secretary-General.

He stated that an investigation could only work with the cooperation of the Israeli authorities. He emphasized, though, that this case should not be the only subject of investigation. Rather, the circumstances that led to the killing of more than 220 humanitarian workers in Gaza had to be investigated in turn.

“The question is not only to know if mistakes were committed and who committed them. The question is, (what's) the system that allows these mistakes to happen time and time again? It is the change of that system that is required,” he said.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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© Inter Press Service (2024) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service