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Feb 21, 2024

Civilians in Gaza in extreme peril, says IASC

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IASC

In a collective appeal by Principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) including heads of UN humanitarian entities and global NGOs implored world leaders to help prevent further deterioration of the crisis in Gaza that has left tens of thousands of Palestinians – mostly women and children – dead.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says, the statement urges an immediate ceasefire, protection of civilians and the infrastructure, the hostages to be released immediately, reliable entry points to bring aid, security to distribute aid and more.

The IASC occasionally make or endorse joint statements on key issues or challenges facing the humanitarian system.

Created by United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1991, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) is the longest-standing and highest-level humanitarian coordination forum of the United Nations system.

It brings together the executive heads of 19 organizations and consortia to formulate policy, set strategic priorities and mobilize resources in response to humanitarian crises.

With members from within and outside the United Nations, the IASC strengthens collective humanitarian action through the implementation of a coherent, unified response.

“We are calling on Israel to fulfil its legal obligation, under international humanitarian and human rights law, to provide food and medical supplies and facilitate aid operations, and on the world’s leaders to prevent an even worse catastrophe from happening,” the humanitarian leaders appealed.

In the less than five months that followed the brutal 7 October attacks and the ensuing escalation, tens of thousands of Palestinians – mostly women and children – have been killed and injured in the Gaza Strip. More than three quarters of the population have been forced from their homes, many multiple times, and face severe shortages of food, water, sanitation and healthcare – the basic necessities to survive.

According WHO, the health system continues to be systematically degraded, with catastrophic consequences. As of 19 February, only 12 out of 36 hospitals with inpatient capacity are still functioning, and only partially. There have been more than 370 attacks on health care in Gaza since 7 October, it adds.

Diseases are rampant. Famine is looming. Water is at a trickle. Basic infrastructure has been decimated. Food production has come to a halt. Hospitals have turned into battlefields. One million children face daily traumas.

Rafah, the latest destination for well over 1 million displaced, hungry and traumatized people crammed into a small sliver of land, has become another battleground in this brutal conflict. Further escalation of violence in this densely populated area would cause mass casualties. It could also deal a death blow to a humanitarian response that is already on its knees.

There is no safe place in Gaza, WHO says.

Humanitarian workers, themselves displaced and facing shelling, death, movement restrictions and a breakdown of civil order, continue efforts to deliver to those in need. But faced with so many obstacles – including safety and movement restrictions – they can only do so much.

No amount of humanitarian response will make up for the months of deprivation that families in Gaza have endured. This is our effort to salvage the humanitarian operation so that we can provide, at the very least, the bare essentials: medicine, drinking water, food, and shelter as temperatures plummet.

Issuing a statement with signatories:

Mr. Martin Griffiths, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Ms. Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary General, CARE International

Dr. Qu Dongyu, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Ms. Jane Backhurst, Chair, ICVA (Christian Aid)

Mr. Jamie Munn, Executive Director, International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA)

Mr. Tom Hart, Chief Executive Officer and President, InterAction

Ms. Amy E. Pope, Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM)

Ms. Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Chief Executive Officer, Mercy Corps

Mr. Volker Türk, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Ms. Janti Soeripto, President and Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children

Ms. Paula Gaviria Betancur, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (SR on HR of IDPs)

Mr. Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Mr. Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Mr. Michal Mlynár, Executive Director a.i., United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat)

Ms. Catherine Russell, Executive Director, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Ms. Sima Bahous, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women

Ms. Cindy McCain, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP)

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO) and UNRWA supports statement calling on Israel to fulfil its legal obligation, under international humanitarian and human rights law, to provide food and medical supplies and facilitate aid operations, and to prevent an even worse catastrophe from happening.

As an “inhumane” health and humanitarian situation prevails across Gaza with conditions continuing to deteriorate Gaza has become a ‘death zone’, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told correspondents at a press briefing in Geneva on Wednesday.

“Much of the territory has been destroyed. More than 29,000 people are dead; many more are missing, presumed dead; and many, many more are injured,” he added.

“This figure will rise the longer the war goes on and supplies [are] interrupted,” Tedros said.

Also, on Wednesday, UN independent human rights experts called on Israel to urgently implement an immediate ceasefire and concrete humanitarian measures, with a particular focus on the needs of Palestinian women and girls.