3 major obstacles to delivering aid in Gaza
Children in the Gaza Strip are in desperate need of support. But serious access challenges remain.
More than three months of escalating conflict, killing and bombardments have left families in Gaza reeling. Each day, children face the risk of death from the sky, disease from lack of safe water, and dangerous shortages of food. Thousands of children have died and thousands more are left confronting a deadly triple threat of conflict, disease, and malnutrition.
Even before the latest escalation of violence, around 1 million children were in need of humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem – almost half the child population. UNICEF remains on the ground, working with partners to provide supplies and support for families.
But aid is not reaching every child in urgent need. Day after day, UNICEF and partners face three major challenges to reach those who need it most:
Nowhere is safe in the Gaza Strip. The ongoing conflict means that it’s incredibly difficult for UNICEF and partners to move safely across the Gaza Strip and to gain access to children and families in need. Convoys are coming under fire. The World Health Organization has recorded an unprecedented number of attacks on health care in the Gaza Strip, affecting hospitals and clinics, ambulances and medical supplies.
Meanwhile, humanitarian workers often face similar challenges to those of the broader population: they have lost family members, friends, and have been forced to relocate to safety. Many of them have little or no access to electricity, limited access to food, and no running water.
There aren’t enough trucks and there isn’t enough fuel to operate those that are available. Trucks carrying relief must undergo multiple layers of inspection before entering the Gaza Strip, but the inspection process remains slow and unpredictable. Some of the most essential materials needed for the humanitarian response remain restricted with no clear justification, including generators to power water facilities and hospitals, and plastic pipes to repair badly damaged water infrastructure. Critical medical supplies have also been restricted.
Once aid gets in, there are further challenges to distributing it across the Gaza Strip. Infrastructure for storing and transporting aid has been damaged. Warehouses are unusable. Drivers entering Gaza face incredibly challenging conditions: massive damage to infrastructure and roads make driving dangerous; routes are strewn with unexploded ordnance; and overcrowding on the streets in the south, caused by massive displacement further complicate relief operations. Frequent communications blackouts also routinely interfere with coordination efforts to distribute aid. UNICEF regularly loses contact with its teams on the ground, and families in Gaza often have no means of learning where and how to access aid.
Meanwhile, the infrastructure for storing and transporting supplies has also been damaged – warehouses are unusable and commercial supply lines no longer exist.
Restrictions on commercial goods
Supplies of everyday essentials aren’t getting in to replenish markets. Without the ability to produce or import food, the entire population of Gaza relies on aid to survive. The United Nations, international aid agencies and non-governmental organizations have managed to deliver limited assistance in Gaza, but humanitarian aid alone cannot meet the massive needs.
The volume of commercial goods for sale in the Gaza Strip needs to increase and increase fast. We need at least 300 trucks of private commercial goods to be going in daily. This would help people purchase essential goods, relieve community tension, and stimulate cash assistance programmes.
We’re doing our best every day to address these challenges and to deliver lifesaving aid. UNICEF is providing medical kits, nutrition supplements, water supplies, tents, blankets, clothing and more. But it’s not enough. An immediate and long-lasting ceasefire is the only way to end the killing and injuring of children and to enable the delivery of desperately needed aid.
UNICEF calls for:
All access crossings into the Gaza Strip to open
Approval and inspection processes for aid to be faster and more efficient, and predictable
The resumption of commercial/private sector activities
The immediate entry of increased quantity of fuel that can go across the Gaza Strip
Reliable and uninterrupted telecommunication channels
Greater trucking and transportation capacity inside the Gaza Strip
Civilian infrastructure like schools and hospitals must be protected
Access to the north of the Gaza Strip, to allow us to reach vulnerable children and families that are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
The lives of children and their families are hanging in the balance. Every minute counts.