I visited Gaza today again, to see what progress has been made, now nine weeks since the beginning of the hostilities with Israel. Unfortunately, since the beginning of the escalation on 10 May, entry of goods through Kerem Shalom crossing has been limited to food, medical supplies, fuel, fodder, a few agricultural inputs, and other narrowly-defined items.
Without a return to regular and predictable entry of goods into Gaza, the capacity of the UN and our partners to deliver critical interventions is at risk, as are the livelihoods of and basic services for the people in Gaza. The UN currently estimates that 250,000 people are still without regular access to piped water, and that 185,000 are relying on unsafe water sources or paying higher prices for bottled water. The critical agricultural sector, a main source of food and income in Gaza is at risk, including the current planting season.
Meeting humanitarian needs, including the resumption of basic water, health and sanitation services, and the reconstruction of Gaza cannot progress without the entry of a broad range of supplies, including equipment, and construction materials necessary to support those repairs and humanitarian activities.
The cessation of the regular entry of commercial goods is impacting the work of hundreds of Gaza private sector businesses and the income of thousands of workers. Exports from Gaza, which are critical to livelihoods, are virtually halted. Obstacles facing the private sector need to be removed if it is to recover and resume its role as the main driver of growth and employment.
The tripartite Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (“GRM”), established in the aftermath of the 2014 hostilities, has successfully enabled the entry of material and goods in an accountable and transparent manner, ensuring assistance is not diverted and only reaches the people of Gaza. Several large infrastructure projects, including those submitted and approved through the GRM, prior to the escalation, are currently on hold due to the restrictions on importing the needed materials. Such projects are key to restore and improve provision of basic services and the economy in Gaza.
Lastly, national staff are essential to humanitarian operations; the UN and our INGO partners need to revert to normal operations whereby staff can enter and exit on a regular and predictable basis.
Israel must fulfil its obligations under international humanitarian law; humanitarian assistance is not conditional.
I urge Israel to ease the restrictions on the movement of goods and people to and from Gaza, in line with UN Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), with the goal of ultimately lifting them. Only by fully lifting the debilitating closures can we hope to sustainably resolve the humanitarian crisis and contribute to longer term stability.