Aid system at the brink of total collapse and women give birth to stillborn babies as the risk of famine looms large in Gaza


With one-quarter of Gaza’s population being one step away from famine and more than a dozen children dying from malnutrition in the north of the enclave, ActionAid is warning that an already extremely strained humanitarian system will face total collapse amidst the apparent looming offensive of Rafah. A senior UN aid official warned a quarter of the population faced severe levels of food insecurity and that one in six children under the age of two in the north were suffering from acute malnutrition.

Over the last week, aid distributions across Gaza have come under attack, claiming lives while further endangering aid operations. As a result of the growing attacks on paramedics in Gaza, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society announced last week that it was suspending its medical missions across the Strip. On top of this, UNRWA, the largest aid agency in Gaza, is facing an uncertain future after seeing its budget severely slashed as many large donors, including the Australian government have withdrawn their financial support.

“This is a dire humanitarian crisis with children dying of starvation and women giving birth in the most inhumane conditions due to so little aid and medical supplies being permitted to enter Gaza. The situation will only get worse unless the Australian government and other donor nations urgently reinstate funding to UNRWA and ensure Israeli forces stop blocking aid from reaching people in urgent need of assistance. We cannot stand by and allow people to starve to death,” said Michelle Higelin, Executive Director of ActionAid Australia.

As western nations begin air drops of aid into Gaza, Amjad Al-Shawa of the Palestinian NGOs Network in Gaza, explained why it will not be enough to reliably meet the needs of Gazans. His explanation comes as a 14-truck aid convoy was turned away by Israeli forces yesterday in northern Gaza, the first attempted delivery in two weeks by the World Food Programme.

“The air drop [of humanitarian aid] is not enough at all in such conditions; there is a need for land transportation of aid.

“Every day we’re in [dire] need of 4,000 truckloads in order to cover the basic needs of these people.

“It’s very important to work urgently to stop this war on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and to open all the crossings to let in all the required aid to reach all people.

“This is an urgent request from the people who are in Gaza, in the north and the south, who [are] still in the shelters, from the children, from the babies, and from women.”

The catastrophic humanitarian situation in northern Gaza, which has largely been cut off from aid since the start of the conflict, is rapidly deteriorating. In recent days, the Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that 15 children had died of malnutrition and dehydration at Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza, with six other infants who are suffering from acute malnutrition at risk of dying.

Dr Mohammed Salha, director of Al-Awda, ActionAid’s partner in northern Gaza, explained how a sharp increase in malnutrition has led to an increase in death among children and cases of stillborn babies. “Many cases were recorded in government hospitals of children who died due to malnutrition.

“We are a hospital specialised in women’s services and childbirth. There are many operations that have been performed, like caesarean sections to remove fetuses, [which] died due to malnutrition among women. More than 95% of women [who] come to the hospital and undergo the necessary medical examinations [are suffering] from anemia.”

Al-Awda Hospital – the only hospital with maternity services in northern Gaza – was supplied two days ago with fuel by the World Health Organisation, enough to last for two weeks only but crucially without a fresh supply of vital, lifesaving medicines.

Suhaila, a displaced mother sheltering with eight others in Gaza, spoke about how her two-year-old son is suffering from diarrhea amidst intense food shortages. “We really need the basic necessities; it is difficult to get fresh drinking water. My son goes on several trips to fill only one gallon [with water]. We fill one gallon with fresh drinking water and another with water for cleaning. But it is a long way to get water, and it is also tiring. Sometimes my kids fall asleep without water because we couldn’t get any.’ “My youngest boy is two and a half years old. He is suffering from diarrhea and stomach flu. He needs several changes of clothes, and nappies. Nappies are really expensive. We cannot afford [them] at times. “We need food supplies; we need food to feed our children. Aid does not come frequently. Sometimes we are able to get food, other times we [can’t]. We need food, medication, fresh water, and we really need clothes. It is freezing cold at night in our tent. None of us have extra clothes.”

Since aid convoys started entering Gaza at the end of October, around 70% of all humanitarian assistance has crossed the border with Egypt into Rafah. It is also where many aid agencies are headquartered meaning that any ground offensive will spell complete catastrophe for over two million people in Gaza.

Buthaina, Director of Wefaq, ActionAid Palestine’s partner in Gaza, said: “All the aid that crosses into the Gaza Strip from the Rafah crossing in the south through the Egyptian crossing does not meet [people’s] needs. There are groups that suffer [a lot of] difficultly, such as newly born children, as there are no diapers or milk, the price of a box of diapers has become 200 shekels [£43.88].’ “Most families here depend on tinned food, and this has caused many problems. We need hot meals, such as vegetable [dishes], to be provided to families to meet their basic needs. Also, medication is not available for most patients, especially cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and dialysis patients.

“The needs of women, children and people in general are [very high]. The capabilities that reach the Gaza Strip are very small and hardly meet these increasing needs.”

Riham Jafari, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at ActionAid Palestine said: “With the IPC potentially announcing next week that pockets of Gaza are facing famine, an already overwhelmed aid system will be unable to respond while many more continue to face extreme hunger. The lives of thousands more babies, children, and pregnant women depend on urgent action being taken right now to prevent famine.

“We are calling for Israel to open reliable and safe entry points for aid to flow at scale into Gaza, with no denials, delays or barriers. But what millions in Gaza need more than anything right now is an end to this brutal war and an immediate and permanent ceasefire. If people in Gaza don’t die from the bombs, they will likely die from starvation. This is not a reality anyone should face; we are urging the international community to act now to end this senseless cycle of violence and suffering.


/Public Release.