Saturday, December 2, 2023

UN warns situation in Gaza “matter of life and death”

The United Nations has described the situation in the Gaza Strip as a matter of “life and death", warning that the clean water supply for the 2 million people there is running dangerously low. The world body also cautioned of increasing risks of waterborne diseases.

“It has become a matter of life and death. It is a must; fuel needs to be delivered now into Gaza to make water available for 2 million people,” Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Phillippe Lazzarini said in a statement Saturday.

Lazzarini highlighted the devastating impact of the blockade on Gaza, which has received no fresh humanitarian aid for one week now.

“Clean water is running out in the Gaza Strip, after its water plant and public water networks stopped working. People are now forced to use dirty water from wells, increasing risks of waterborne diseases. Gaza has also been under an electricity blackout since 11 October, impacting the water supply,” the statement read.

The UNRWA was forced to move its central operations from Gaza City to a location in southern Gaza following the Israeli evacuation order issued Friday. The agency warned that water is now “also running out” at its new location, as thousands of displaced civilians from northern Gaza continue to arrive.

“Only in the past 12 hours, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. The exodus continues as people move to the southern parts of the Gaza Strip. Nearly 1 million people have been displaced in one week alone,” the statement added.

“We need to truck fuel into Gaza now. Fuel is the only way for people to have safe drinking water. If not, people will start dying of severe dehydration, among them young children, the elderly and women. Water is now the last remaining lifeline,” Lazzarini continued, noting, “I appeal for the siege on humanitarian assistance to be lifted now.”

Injured persons are continuing to stream into hospitals in central Gaza as the Palestinian Ministry of Health announced Saturday that more than 2,200 civilians in the Gaza Strip have been killed in the hostilities.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said 2,215 civilians, including 724 children and 458 women, have been killed since the conflict broke out one week ago.

The health ministry also added that 8,714 citizens have been injured in Gaza with varying degrees of injuries sustained. Among the injured are 2,450 children and 1,536 women.

The UNRWA also said no aid has so far reached the 2.3 million residents of Gaza, as medical supplies and fuel to power hospitals are running out. Some 220,000 displaced people are sheltering in schools run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees.

Bassim Khoury, CEO of the Pharmacare Group, stated Gaza has a few small factories producing medical supplies but that none of them were working.

“The situation for medicines is dire,” he told Al Jazeera. “Unless we can push for humanitarian relief into Gaza, it will be a catastrophe.”

Khoury added that his staff on the ground reported hospitals are facing a lack of fuel to power generators, including at Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest. Heavy bombardment also meant that many generators were destroyed or damaged.

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