UNRWA boss insists Gaza famine can still be avoided

The United Nations’ Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), an agency assisting Palestinian refugees, said that famine in the battle-stained Gaza Strip could still be prevented, Al Jazeera reported. 

It has been found that 25% of households in the besieged territory are suffering conditions akin to famine due to the lack of aid being let in. 

UNRWA boss Philippe Lazzarini clinged onto hope on February 25 and called on Israel to let in food parcels amongst other basic necessities in Gaza which are unquestionably lacking. 

The dire hunger situation in the Strip was emphasised by a picture widely circulating online late last year of a young boy eating plain bread and dipping it into water. 

A country that continues to show disregard for the basic principles of international law, Israel has on multiple occasions deprived the Gazan population of basic necessities and in recent times most aid parcels have been turned away. 

Lazzarini affirmed that, “The world (must be) committed to never let famine happen again, 

“Famine can still be avoided through genuine political will to grant access and protection to meaningful assistance.” 

The agency chief did not mince his words as to who was to blame for the food crisis noting on X, previously Twitter, that this was a “man-made disaster” caused by Israeli forces. 

Human rights groups are now saying that dozens, many of whom were children, have died of malnutrition in addition to the massacre by Israeli bombs. 

READ: Gaza crisis hits women the hardest

As of February 26, the death toll in the enclave is at 30,000 and around 80% of the population have been forced to flee their homes. 

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned of a “extremely critical” situation in Gaza’s northern part and have raised concerns about increasingly dire conditions in the south.  

Israel has been tough on the UNRWA as it was alleged last month that around a dozen of their 30,000 employees were involved in Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, dubbed “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” by the militant group. 

The allegations led to Lazzarini sacking those accused as he insisted that the agency was already feeling the pressure and that the main focus must be on assisting desperate Gazans. 

With regards to the UNRWA and letting food into the Palestinian enclave, far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said earlier this month that Israel would “not give tax benefits to terrorist aides.” 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the countries who have suspended vital funding to the UN agency over the accusations to reconsider given the importance of it. 

Countries’ decision to stop aid to the UNRWA has been seen by onlookers as an act of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. 

On February 24, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), an Israeli agency which referees civilian affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories, announced that four tankers of cooking gas were allowed into Gaza. 

The day after, the agency said that roughly 245 trucks carrying humanitarian aid were inspected and transferred to Gaza. 

Al Jazeera/ AFP/ UNRWA 

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