UN Chief Says ‘Incremental Progress’ toward Averting Gaza Famine

UN Chief Says ‘Incremental Progress’ toward Averting Gaza Famine
04 May 2024

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently addressed the pressing humanitarian situation in the northern Gaza Strip, acknowledging some progress but emphasizing the urgent need for more substantial action to prevent what he termed "an entirely preventable, human-made famine." Guterres specifically called upon Israel to honor its commitment made a month ago to open two crossings into northern Gaza, allowing aid to flow directly from Israel's Ashdod port and Jordan, and to ensure safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance across Gaza.

Highlighting the critical nature of the issue, Guterres stressed that the lack of security for both humanitarian workers and the people they serve presents a major obstacle to aid distribution in Gaza. He emphasized that humanitarian convoys, facilities, personnel, and the vulnerable populations in need must not be targeted.

The urgency of the situation is underscored by a UN-backed report published in March, which warned of an imminent famine in northern Gaza by May, with the potential to spread throughout the enclave's population of 2.3 million by July. Guterres pointed out that the most vulnerable individuals in northern Gaza, including sick children and people with disabilities, are already suffering from hunger and disease.

In addition to addressing the immediate humanitarian crisis, Guterres appealed to states with influence over Israel to exert all possible efforts to prevent potential military assaults, particularly in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where over a million displaced Palestinians are seeking shelter.

The United States, through Secretary of State Antony Blinken, is engaging with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss measures aimed at increasing the flow of aid into Gaza. Guterres stressed the importance of leveraging all available pressure to avoid a devastating escalation of conflict in the region.

Efforts to alleviate the crisis include discussions between the UN and the US regarding the construction of a floating pier to facilitate maritime aid deliveries from Cyprus to Gaza. However, Guterres emphasized that while aid delivery by air and sea is welcomed, there is no alternative to the massive use of land routes for sustained humanitarian assistance.

Despite assertions by Israel's Deputy UN Ambassador Jonathan Miller regarding increased aid support, tensions between Israel and Hamas persist. Israel attributes its actions to retaliation against Hamas for an attack on southern Israel, while Gaza health authorities claim significant casualties resulting from Israeli military operations.

In summary, while some progress has been made, the situation in Gaza remains dire, requiring urgent and concerted efforts from the international community to prevent further suffering and escalation of conflict.

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Photo Credit: Destroyed buildings in Khan Younis after the Israeli military pulled out troops from the southern Gaza Strip, 30 April 2024. (EPA)

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