The Gaza Strip is currently undergoing one of its most severe crises in recent times. According to the United Nations, an alarming 423,000 individuals have been forced to abandon their homes due to intense Israeli bombardments. These strikes are a response to Hamas’s extensive terror attacks over the weekend. A statement released by the UN humanitarian agency OCHA highlighted that:
- Israeli bombardments from air, sea, and land have been relentless.
- In just 24 hours, multiple residential structures in densely populated zones have been decimated.
- Out of the displaced, approximately 270,000 people have sought refuge in schools managed by the UNRWA (UN agency supporting Palestinian refugees).
- Nearly 27,000 individuals have taken shelter in schools overseen by the Palestinian Authority.
- Over 153,000 found safety with relatives, neighbors, or other public establishments.
- Around 3,000 were already displaced before the latest onslaught commenced.
Destruction of Civilian Infrastructure
The bombing campaign has not only affected homes but also critically damaged Gaza’s infrastructure. As per the data shared by the OCHA:
- 752 residential and non-residential structures, consisting of 2,835 housing units, have been demolished.
- About 1,800 housing units are irreparably damaged and are uninhabitable now.
- At least 90 educational institutions, including 20 UNRWA schools and 70 Palestinian Authority schools, have faced destruction. One school has been completely destroyed.
- Religious infrastructures were not spared, with 11 mosques destroyed and seven religious sites, including churches, damaged.
- Water and sanitation amenities have been critically hit, affecting more than 1.1 million residents.
Growing Humanitarian Crisis
Before the recent escalation of violence, the Gaza Strip was already on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. The continuous conflict between Hamas and Israel has intensified concerns regarding food and water shortages. Key factors contributing to this dire situation include:
- The Gaza Strip, home to 2.4 million residents within just 140 square miles, faced food and water scarcity even before the conflict escalated.
- The territory’s land has been degraded due to millennia of conflict, impacting its self-sustaining capabilities.
- The only water source, an over-extracted aquifer, provides merely 4% potable water.
- The vast majority of Gaza’s food supply depends on imports, making the recent blockades by Israel even more detrimental.
Food and Water Supplies Rapidly Depleting
As the ongoing conflict continues to restrict borders, experts, including Shada Moghraby from the World Food Programme’s New York office, warn of an imminent shortage of essential supplies. With borders tightened, Israel ceased the entry of essential commodities, including food, water, fuel, and medicine into Gaza. The only access from Egypt was also sealed earlier this week.
The damage to infrastructure impedes food production and distribution. Local bakeries are running out of essential items such as fuel, electricity, and wheat flour. Those managing to secure food often risk their lives seeking shelter from the bombardments.
Efforts of the World Food Programme (WFP)
The WFP is striving to assist those affected, providing:
- Ready-to-eat canned food and fresh bread to 73,000 individuals initially, and extended to 205,000 residents shortly after.
- Plans to expand its assistance to over 800,000 people in Gaza and the West Bank, offering food, water, and vital supplies.
Despite the pressing need, the WFP has encountered financial challenges. The organization urgently requires an additional $17 million to secure the necessary food provisions for the next month.
Call to the International Community
The urgent situation necessitates that the international community come together in a unified response. Several measures are paramount:
- Humanitarian Corridors: Immediate establishment of humanitarian corridors to ensure the smooth and safe passage of essential supplies and aid workers.
- Funding: Donor countries, philanthropists, and international organizations need to step forward with financial contributions to support aid agencies working on the ground, such as the WFP.
- Peace Negotiations: The United Nations and influential countries must intervene diplomatically to broker an immediate ceasefire and initiate peace talks between the conflicting parties.
- Reconstruction: Plans for post-conflict reconstruction should be formulated promptly to rebuild the damaged infrastructure, ensuring the rapid return of displaced individuals to their homes.
The situation in Gaza remains critical, with thousands displaced and facing a dire humanitarian situation. The international community’s urgent response is crucial to mitigate the immediate and long-term impact of this crisis.
Immediate attention and collective global efforts are paramount to address the twin challenges of the ongoing conflict and the humanitarian disaster unfolding in the Gaza Strip. The direct consequences of the bombardments are evident in the rubble of homes, schools, and essential infrastructures. However, the indirect implications — scarcity of food, water, and medicine — are equally alarming and can have lasting repercussions for the residents of Gaza.