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Gaza: ‘Children are dying from hunger’, says UN aid coordinator

“Hunger has reached catastrophic levels,” Jamie McGoldrick, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, told journalists at UN Headquarters on Wednesday, describing a two-day visit to war-ravaged Gaza.

“Children are dying from hunger,” he said via videolink, as media reports indicate that at least 20 children have succumbed to starvation in the besieged and bombarded enclave, including most recently a 14-day-old baby.

Calling for a plan to address this crisis, he said immediate needs would include using a military access road to northern Gaza for a minimum of 300 aid trucks every day

Hunger in the enclave has grown exponentially since the Israeli invasion began in October, triggered by Hamas-led attacks on Israel that left 1,200 dead and 240 taken hostage.

Lack of water amid gender-based violence

During visits to the Misq and Layan camp in Al Mawasi in southern Gaza, Mr. McGoldrick said displaced women conveyed the impact of the war and of the huge scale of need, which include privacy, security, hygiene and the inability to prepare for Ramadan.

The women said daily life in a community-driven camp entails facing sexual harassment on the way to unsegregated toilets, a lack of clean water and gender-based violence, he said.

One woman said she had given birth and then was forced to move to the camp two days later with her other children, one of whom is living with disabilities, he said, adding that the women admitted she was unable to breastfeed her newborn due to the lack of food.

At night, walking through the camps, “you can hear the women crying”, he said.

Famine looms alongside feared Rafah invasion

Some of the people he met said they had been displaced multiple times, and that if Israel’s expected ground invasion of Rafah occurs, there is no system in place to safely evacuate those already seeking shelter in the south.

“People want to get back to a normal life,” he said. “Hopefully, we get some sort of pause which will allow us to stabilize people’s health and food security. It’s something we’re hoping for in the coming weeks.”

Given the conditions facing people in northern Gaza, with a lack of healthcare, food and other basic essentials, the Humanitarian Coordinator said there will be “a lot preventable deaths” linked to current squalid living conditions.

A more detailed report on famine is expected in the coming weeks, but Mr. McGoldrick said the findings will likely confirm what is already known: hunger is spiralling.

Land deliveries more effective than airdrops

While airdrops and naval aid deliveries are helpful, road transport remains the most effective way to get the volume of urgently required aid to those who need it, he said.

Right now, airdrops contain supplements for children and ready-to-eat pre-cooked meals, while trucks deliver flour and food parcels from UNRWA and WFP.

One truck could deliver between 20 and 30 metric tonnes, about 10 times the amount of one aircraft conducting an aid drop.

Egypt is the main land entry point for aid, via the Rafah crossing in southern Gaza, he said. Right now, Sigrid Kaag, the UN Security Council-mandated Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza, is working with Egyptian officials to improve the effectiveness of aid deliveries, he said.

The UN Spokesperson said Ms. Kaag will be briefing the Council on Thursday.

Source: UN News Centre

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