UK announces significant aid package for Gaza

Government allocates £4.25m for essential services as thousands face dire conditions in war-torn enclave

Ibtisam Al Kafarna, in her tent in one of the UNRWA school.
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The UK has announced an aid package of £4.25 million to support sexual and reproductive health care in Gaza through the UN's Population Fund, formerly the UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) – an agency aimed at improving reproductive and maternal health worldwide.

This financial commitment, in response to the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza, comes at a critical time as thousands of women and girls, displaced by the continuing conflict, face dire health risks.

The funding aims to assist about 115,000 women, about 20 per cent of Gaza's adult female population, by enhancing access to essential services.

This includes the provision of 20,000 menstrual hygiene management kits and 45,000 delivery kits to support community midwives, ensuring safer childbirth and better care for mothers and their newborns.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, highlighting the urgency of the situation, said: “Women are bearing the brunt of the desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza today.

“Many thousands of women are currently pregnant and will be worrying about delivering their babies safely. This new UK funding will help make giving birth safer and improve the lives of mothers and their newborn babies.

This announcement was made in conjunction with a renewed plea for an “immediate pause” in the hostilities.

“We need to see an immediate pause in the fighting so we can secure the safe release of hostages, get more aid in, and allow organisations like UNFPA to do their vital work effectively,” he said.

The Foreign Office reiterated calls for Israel to enhance aid flow into Gaza and to allow for humanitarian pauses.

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Natalia Kanem, UNFPA's executive director, expressed the grim reality faced by women and girls in Gaza, underscoring the importance of international support.

She said: “In Gaza, the reality for women and girls is horrific – and getting worse each day.

“They have little to no access to essential health services and menstrual supplies, and many are forced to give birth in unsafe conditions that put their lives and those of their babies at risk.

“The support of the UK and other partners is vital to get life-saving resources directly to women and girls in desperate need.”

The conflict has placed an enormous strain on Gaza's population, with estimates indicating that there were 50,000 pregnant women at the war's outset.

Daily, more than 180 births are recorded, with more than 5,500 women expected to give birth in the coming month.

Several nations have halted funding for another UN agency, UNRWA, pending a review of Israeli allegations related to the Hamas attack on October 7.

However, Lord Cameron has assured that the UK seeks an “absolute guarantee” from UNRWA regarding its employment practices, amid continuing debates about the funding freeze and its implications for Gaza's civilians.

The broader context of these humanitarian efforts includes international diplomatic efforts to address the conflict.

At a recent UN General Assembly meeting in New York, Lord Cameron addressed criticisms of perceived “double standards” in the UK's response to global crises, emphasising the unique circumstances of the Gaza conflict and reaffirming the UK's commitment to a two-state solution, despite opposition from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Updated: February 25, 2024, 12:57 PM