Famine and disease unless Gazans get more aid faster say UN chiefs

RAFAH: Gaza urgently needs more aid or its desperate population will suffer widespread famine and disease, the heads of three major UN agencies warned Monday (Jan 15) as authorities in the enclave reported that the death toll in the Israel-Hamas war had surpassed 24,000.

While the UN agency chiefs did not directly point a finger at Israel, they said aid delivery is hobbled by the opening of too few border crossings, a slow vetting process for trucks and goods going into Gaza, and continuing fighting throughout the territory — all of which Israel plays a deciding factor in.

Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, sparked by the militant group’s Oct 7 attack on southern Israel, has prompted unprecedented destruction in the tiny coastal enclave and triggered a humanitarian catastrophe that has displaced most of Gaza’s 2.3 million population and pushed more than a quarter into starvation according to the UN.

It has also stoked regional tensions, with Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen carrying out strikes in support of the Palestinians. A missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels hit a US-owned cargo ship on Monday, days after US-led strikes against the group over its attacks on international shipping.


In Gaza, civilians have grown desperate. Footage shared online by Al Jazeera showed hundreds of people rushing toward what appeared to be an aid truck in what the news outlet said was Gaza City. The Associated Press couldn’t independently verify the video and it wasn’t clear when it was filmed.

A day after the White House said it was time for Israel to scale back its military offensive, the World Food Program, UNICEF and the World Health Organization said that new entry routes need to be opened to Gaza, more trucks need to be allowed in each day, and aid workers and those seeking aid need to be allowed to move around safely.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said UN agencies and their partners “cannot effectively deliver humanitarian aid while Gaza is under such heavy, widespread and unrelenting bombardment.” He said the deaths of 152 UN staffers in Gaza since the start of the war is “the largest single loss of life in the history of our organization.”

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