Water is running out for 2 million people in Gaza as no humanitarian supplies have been allowed into the Palestinian enclave for a week now, the United Nations Palestine Refugee Agency warned on Saturday. ‘UNRWA.
“It has become a question of life and death. It is a necessity: fuel must be delivered now to Gaza to make water available to 2 million people,” declared Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner General of UNRWA.
Drinking water is running out in the Gaza Strip after the water plant and public water networks stopped working. People are now forced to use dirty water from wells, increasing the risk of water-borne diseases. Gaza has also been facing a power outage since October 11, impacting water supplies.
At the UN base in the south of the Gaza Strip, where UNRWA has transferred its operations, drinking water is also running out. Thousands of people took refuge there after Israel issued a warning to residents to leave their homes in the northern Gaza Strip.
In the last 12 hours alone, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. The exodus continues as people move to the south of the Gaza Strip. Nearly a million people were displaced in a single week.
“We need to truck fuel to Gaza now. Fuel is the only way for people to have clean water. Otherwise, people will begin to die from severe dehydration, including young children, the elderly and women. Water is now the last lifeline. I call for the siege on humanitarian aid to be lifted now,” added Mr. Lazzarini.
UNRWA also called on Israeli authorities to protect all civilians housed in its premises throughout the Gaza Strip, including those in northern Gaza and Gaza City.
Despite orders to evacuate more than a million people from northern Gaza and Gaza City to the south of the enclave, many of them, including pregnant women, children, the elderly and disabled people will not be able to flee the area. They have no choice and must be protected at all times, says UNRWA in a press release.
“Wars have rules. Civilians, hospitals, schools, clinics and United Nations premises cannot be a target,” adds the UN agency.
The worst to come
In a statement released on Saturday, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said he feared “the worst is yet to come”.
“The humanitarian situation in Gaza, already critical, is quickly becoming untenable. In the West Bank, violence is increasing, with an increase in civilian deaths and injuries. Families face increasingly strict travel restrictions. And in Lebanon, the risk of the conflict spreading to the country is a major concern,” he said.
According to him, “the actions and rhetoric of stakeholders in recent days are extremely alarming and unacceptable. Even wars have rules, and these rules must be respected at all times and by all parties.”
“Civilians and civilian infrastructure, including humanitarian workers and assets, must be protected. Civilians must be allowed to leave for safer areas. And whether they move or stay, constant care must be taken to spare them. Essential supplies and services as well as unimpeded humanitarian access must be permitted. Everyone held in captivity must be treated humanely. All hostages must be released,” Mr Griffiths added.
WHO supplies arrive in Egypt
For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that a plane carrying 78 cubic meters of medical supplies from the WHO logistics center in Dubai landed at Al-Arish airport in Egypt. The supplies will be delivered to Gaza to meet critical health needs as soon as humanitarian access via the Rafah crossing is established.
According to the WHO, every hour these supplies remain on the Egyptian side of the border, more girls and boys, women and men, especially those who are vulnerable or disabled, will die while the supplies that can save them are less than 20 kilometers away.
The supplies include enough trauma medicine and health supplies to care for 1,200 injured patients and 1,500 patients with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and respiratory problems, as well as basic essential health supplies to respond to the needs of 300,000 people, including pregnant women.
They also include trauma pouches containing enough medicine and supplies to treat 235 injured people. With hospitals in Gaza non-functional or overwhelmed, and movement restricted due to the fighting, these will allow the injured to be stabilized and receive immediate, life-saving care wherever needed, the UN agency said.
WHO joins calls for the immediate opening of a humanitarian crossing point across the Rafah border into Gaza, the safe delivery of vital supplies to health facilities, the delivery of fuel, water, food and other items essential for survival, and for the protection of health workers, patients and civilians.
Risk of ethnic cleansing
For her part, an independent UN human rights expert warned on Saturday that Palestinians were in grave danger of mass ethnic cleansing and called on the international community to urgently negotiate a ceasefire between the Hamas and Israeli forces.
“The situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and in Israel has reached its climax,” said Francesca Albanese, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
“The United Nations and its Member States must intensify their efforts to achieve an immediate ceasefire between the parties, before we reach a point of no return,” Ms. Albanese said. On October 12, Israeli forces ordered 1.1 million Palestinians in northern Gaza to move south within 24 hours, amid airstrikes. “There is a serious danger that what we are witnessing is a repeat of the 1948 Nakba and the 1967 Naksa, but on a larger scale. The international community must do everything to prevent this from happening again,” said the expert.