I have spent the past two days, here in Gaza, speaking with people who endured unimaginable suffering over the eleven days of hostilities.
I met with several families that have been deeply affected by the latest round of hostilities. A father who lost his wife and four of his five children. I witnessed the despair of displaced families whose homes have been completely destroyed.
Several locations that previously were key to providing basic services have been destroyed or damaged, including a medical laboratory that was testing for COVID-19. Water sanitation pipelines have been damaged, threatening disease. The only primary healthcare centre in the north – which had the best rate of vaccination administration – has been damaged to an extent that they are no longer able to service the community – all during a global pandemic.
An agricultural supplies warehouse was destroyed – and with it likely at least one season of crops, threatening food security – creating a health and environmental hazard. I also visited one of the several damaged schools; such damage further complicates children’s access to education, on top of pre-existing COVID-related interruptions.
One message I heard repeatedly is that people in Gaza are traumatised more than ever; girls, boys, women and men. The intensity of the strikes were without pause; too many homes lost and loved ones gone. Many people told me they feel helpless – and no longer have hope. Parents say they cannot reassure their children that this won’t happen again. How can they after so many wars?
While we mourn the loss of people in Gaza, we cannot forget those who have suffered in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, where violence has also escalated, injuring thousands of people. They too, need our support. Children and adults in Israel have also been killed, injured or traumatised by indiscriminate rocket attacks of unprecedented intensity.
The humanitarian community is working hard to bring in essential items, including food, medicine and fuel. This week, I will be releasing almost $US18 million from the oPt Humanitarian Fund and the Emergency Relief Coordinator in New York will release an additional $4 million to restore people’s access to basic services, such as healthcare and water.
In the coming days, we will launch an inter-agency financial appeal to support our efforts to address new humanitarian needs. We must be able to implement our support plan fully. The generous support of our donor partners from all regions is essential, as is unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel and provision to those in need. We must all do our part.
The escalation has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, generated by nearly 14 years of blockade and internal political divisions, alongside recurrent hostilities. We must also ensure support to continue addressing needs that already existed, including those arising from the ongoing pandemic.
Ultimately, for our support to be effective, we must exert every possible effort to ensure that this tragedy is not repeated. The ceasefire must be solidified with all avoiding provocation. Those violating international humanitarian law must be held accountable. There must be a political horizon with the root causes of continued conflict being addressed.
The potential of this coastal area is immense; its economy must be allowed to fully function. Gaza must open-up and be reconnected to the rest of Palestine, including East Jerusalem. I reiterate the Secretary-General’s call for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to revitalize serious dialogue to achieve a just and lasting solution for all.
And lastly, I would like to thank all of my colleagues from the humanitarian community; the NGOs, front line workers and of course those from the United Nations. Many put their own lives in danger while saving others. I thank them for their enduring commitment and sacrifices.
For more information, please see ochaopt.org/crisis.