Northern Gaza still heading toward famine, says deputy WFP chief
Northern Gaza still heading toward famine, says deputy WFP chief
Northern Gaza still heading toward famine, says deputy WFP chief
by DZRH News26 April 2024
A Palestinian child, who is suffering from malnutrition, receives healthcare at Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza Strip, amid widespread hunger, during the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, April 7, 2024. REUTERS/Mahmoud Issa/File Photo

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The northern Gaza Strip is still heading toward a famine, the deputy U.N. food chief said on Thursday, appealing for a greater volume and diversity of aid to be allowed into the enclave and for Israel to allow direct access from its Ashdod port through Erez crossing.

Israel pledged three weeks ago to improve aid access, including reopening Erez and allowing the use of Ashdod port. The move came after U.S. President Joe Biden demanded steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying the U.S. could place conditions on support if Israel did not act.

"We certainly welcome those commitments and some of them have been partly implemented. Some remain to be implemented," World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Executive Director Carl Skau told reporters, adding that for WFP there had been an "uptick" in getting aid in and some progress in accessing northern Gaza.


"But it's far from enough. We need volume and we need diversity of goods and we really need consistency," he said. "We're still heading towards a famine (in the north)."

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week that Israel's commitments to improve aid access in the Gaza Strip had so far had limited and sometimes no impact. A U.N.-backed report published in March said famine was imminent and likely by May in northern Gaza and could spread across the enclave of 2.3 million people by July.


Both Skau - and U.N. humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, Sigrid Kaag, who briefed the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday - said more nutritional and medical aid needed to enter Gaza to avert a famine.


"For example, treating acutely malnourished children or pregnant women is not a matter of eating more calories. They require therapeutic and supplemental foods as well as long-term medical care," Kaag told the Security Council.

Israel's military said last week that eight WFP trucks of flour for Gaza came from Ashdod for the first time.

But they had to travel through Israel to be inspected at the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing on Gaza's southern border before traveling back up an Israeli military road along the Gaza border fence to enter northern Gaza via Erez crossing.

"What we would like to do, and what we understand the commitment to be, is to use Ashdod - not only for wheat, but also for other commodities - and from there go straight into Erez, which is an hour-and-a-half drive, rather than to go in and around Kerem Shalom," Skau said.


The U.N. is in talks with the United States about a floating pier it is constructing to allow maritime aid deliveries to Gaza directly from Cyprus. But both Skau and Kaag said maritime access was no substitute for land deliveries, which needed to remain the focus of aid operations.

"The objective here is to get as much food to those most needy as possible and we will try to find every way to do so," Skau said. "But we need to also remain somewhat independent, so that we can really have access to the communities and deliver in a safe and secure way."


A U.N. team visiting the site for a pier and the staging area for maritime aid operations had to seek shelter in a bunker "for some time" on Wednesday after the area came under fire, a U.N. spokesperson said on Thursday.


COGAT, the Israeli military branch responsible for aid transfers, said "terrorists shot mortar fire" at the site.

Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Robert Wood told the Security Council on Wednesday that Israel had taken some positive steps on aid access, "but not nearly enough, and not quickly enough." He said Israel needed to take immediate action to open more land crossings.

Israel's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Jonathan Miller told the council that Israel continued "to elevate and step up" its aid support and there had been substantial results with a "dramatic increase" in the volume of aid over the past several months.

Israel is retaliating against Hamas in Gaza over an Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel led by the militant group.


Israel says about 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 people were taken hostage in the assault, and Gaza health authorities say Israel has killed 34,000 people in its offensive in Gaza since then.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Josie Kao)

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