Gaza civilians facing immediate possibility of starvation, UN says

UNRWA says enclave is now undergoing a fourth communications blackout and there will be no cross-border operation at Rafah on Friday

A five-year-old boy sits on a mattress in a shelter courtyard surrounded by several hundred other displaced people in Gaza. Photo: Unicef
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The UN's World Food Programme warned on Thursday that civilians in the Gaza Strip are facing starvation because food and water have become “practically non-existent”.

“With winter fast approaching, unsafe and overcrowded shelters, and the lack of clean water, civilians are facing the immediate possibility of starvation,” the executive director of the Rome-based WFP, Cindy McCain, said in a statement.

“Supplies of food and water are practically non-existent in Gaza and only a fraction of what is needed is arriving through the borders.”

The UN agency, which has been warning of increasing hunger for weeks in Gaza, said that bread was now “scarce or non-existent” and that it was impossible to “meet current hunger needs with one operational border crossing”.

“We have to increase the number of lorries that are crossing carrying food assistance we have to have access through multiple border crossing points and not just through routes other you know other we need more than just one crossing point,” read the statement.

Speaking from Amman, UNRWA’s spokesman Juliette Touma told reporters in New York that Gaza is now undergoing a fourth communications blackout and as a result there will not be a cross-border operation at Rafah on Friday.

“The communications network is down because there is no fuel and this makes it impossible to manage or co-ordinate humanitarian aid convoys,” she said.

Ricardo Pires, communication manager at the UN children's fund, reiterated the agency’s call for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian access to supplies for the enclave, emphasising that young people are losing their lives not only due to air strikes but also from insufficient medical assistance.

He told The National that 4,600 children have been killed since October 7 and more than 9,000 injured.

“On top of that, 1,700 children who are missing are very likely under the rubble … If you do the maths, that’s over 400 children every day, reported to killed or injured or even missing.”

The Unicef official also described the war’s impact on children's mental health in the coastal enclave.

“We're talking about an entire generation of children and young people who will be forever scarred by this war and wonder if they will ever be able to be children again,” he said.

Mr Pires said the UN agency has tried many times through diplomatic channels, the Security Council and the General Assembly “to come up with recommendations and resolutions that can hopefully ease the impact on civilians, women and children”.

“But it's not being adhered to for the time being.”

After weeks of inaction, the UN Security Council adopted on Wednesday a resolution calling for the protection of children and “extended humanitarian pauses” to allow aid to reach civilians in the besieged territory.

However, during the council session, Israel's UN ambassador Gilad Erdan issued a statement rejecting the resolution, calling it “disconnected from reality on the ground”.

Updated: November 16, 2023, 9:52 PM