Inside the UAE's relief response centre providing vital aid for Gaza

Eight lorries are carrying supplies including tents and medical kits for 12,000 people

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More aid supplies are heading to Gaza from the UAE to help alleviate the growing humanitarian crisis in the enclave.

A senior official from the UN Humanitarian Response Depot said this week eight lorries would travel with essential equipment including tent and medical kits to help Gazans.

The aim is to find a “window of opportunity” to cross into the Palestinian enclave and help the besieged population.

Five lorries were loaded with supplies at International Humanitarian City in Dubai on Wednesday before leaving for Gaza, with three lorries set to be loaded on Thursday.

Parents are not eating for days at a time so their children can
Walid Ibrahim, network co-ordinator for the UNHRD

“These trucks will travel all the way from Dubai to Jordan by road,” Walid Ibrahim, network co-ordinator for the World Food Programme-managed response depot, told The National. “The cargo is enough to support around 12,000 people inside Gaza, as part of the multiple and ongoing shipments that are being dispatched to support the growing needs in Gaza.

“They are expected to arrive in Jordan in around eight days, where they will try to find any window of opportunity to cross into Gaza.”

The aid comes after the UN Security Council demanded an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza war and the US warned Israel on Tuesday against a ground offensive in Rafah, saying it was “not the way to do it”.

The UN has called for unhindered access to Gaza and says the aid delivered so far is only a small fraction of what is needed.

“The choice is clear: surge or starvation,” said Mr Ibrahim. “We need Israel to allow more routes into Gaza, including from the north, and use of Ashdod port.

“We need humanitarian staff and supplies to move freely, and the people of Gaza to access assistance safely. As famine closes in, an Israeli land offensive in southern Gaza would make our task even harder. We need a humanitarian ceasefire.”

More than 1.9 million people – 90 per cent of the enclave's population – have been displaced since Israel launched its offensive on Gaza.

Mr Ibrahim painted a grim picture of the situation, with famine “imminent” in the north of Gaza and malnutrition among children proceeding at a record pace. One in three below the age of two are now acutely malnourished or “wasted”.

“Parents are not eating for days at a time so their children can,” he said. “Some 70 per cent of the population in the North is facing catastrophic hunger.”

Responding to the UN ceasefire call, he said the WFP was ready to support in any way it can and would aim to “flood” the areas and communities that are most affected.

“We’ll aim to get a constant flow of trucks to the north every day to avert the risk of famine,” he said. “Regular wide-scale distributions will ease tensions and create the conditions for more targeted food assistance operations, using bakeries, hot meals, and food parcels.”

The war broke out in October after a Hamas attack killed about 1,200 people in Israel.

More than 32,400 have since been killed by Israeli forces and aid deliveries into Gaza have been severely curtailed, with aircraft now carrying out aid drops in some areas due to difficulty accessing the enclave by land or sea.

Rafah, an area 20 per cent the size of Gaza and the target of a planned Israeli invasion, currently hosts more than a million people. A lack of fuel, gas, telecoms and a reliable electricity supply hamper humanitarian operations, with ordinary people suffering the most.

“They are sleeping in tents and on the streets and seeking refuge in shelters with no basic services,” said Mr Ibrahim, who cautioned the WFP could not guarantee a regular flow of food to people who need it.

Mr Ibrahim said the two convoys were sponsored by the EU's emergency response branch – the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, better known as Echo.

“Echo has been a relentless partner of WFP and UNHRD since the very early days of the crisis,” he said.

Mr Ibrahim said the supplies sent on Wednesday came from “one of our most active partners, Irish Aid” with Thursday's from another partner, Catholic Relief Services, and carrying emergency shelter equipment.

The WFP manages the UNHRD in Dubai, with similar sites in Panama, Italy, Ghana and Malaysia.

Since the beginning of the war, Mr Ibrahim said about 43 consignments were sent from the relief depot in Dubai and Brindisi hubs.

The shipments of about 1,126 tonnes, valued at about $5 million, were sent on behalf of WFP and 12 humanitarian organisations. The overall global efforts enabled the WFP to distribute food assistance to more than 1.45 million people in Gaza in February.

“We also support over 70 community kitchens to provide over 350,000 hot meals daily,” Mr Ibrahim said.

The WFP is also helping bakeries get back on their feet by providing them with wheat flour and other necessary resources to operate. About 500,000 people have been able to buy bread again because of this assistance.

Up to 24 March, WFP has received 3,327 lorries in Gaza with more than 56,633 tonnes of cargo. The WFP requires 22,000 tonnes of food every month to meet the needs of 1.1 million people.

Countries drop aid into war-torn Gaza – in pictures

Updated: March 28, 2024, 2:00 PM