‘Humanity is failing’: Read the desperate pleas from aid agencies about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza

A Palestinian boy sits with his head in his hands after an Israeli airstrike (AFP via Getty Images)
A Palestinian boy sits with his head in his hands after an Israeli airstrike (AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli forces have been bombing Gaza for more than a week in response to the brutal massacre of more than 1,300 of its citizens by Hamas. In that time, more than 2,300 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli strikes, including more than 700 children.

Israel has imposed a “total siege” of Gaza, cutting off the flow of food, medicine, water and electricity, and told the estimated one million residents of the north to flee south ahead of a planned ground invasion.

Aid agencies and relief organisations have warned of a humanitarian crisis in the densely populated territory, which is home to more than 2.3 million people.

UN spokeswoman Inas Hamdan said Sunday that a quarter-of-a-million people in Gaza had moved to shelters over the past 24 hours, the majority of which were UN schools where “clean water has actually run out.”

Below are excerpts from statements about the unfolding situation in Gaza released in the past few days.

‘A death sentence for the sick and injured’ — World Health Organisation

“The forced evacuation of patients and health workers will further worsen the current humanitarian and public health catastrophe.

The lives of many critically ill and fragile patients hang in the balance: those in intensive care or who rely on life support; patients undergoing hemodialysis; newborns in incubators; women with complications of pregnancy, and others all face imminent deterioration of their condition or death if they are forced to move and are cut off from life-saving medical attention while being evacuated.

Health facilities in northern Gaza continue to receive an influx of injured patients and are struggling to operate beyond maximum capacity. Some patients are being treated in corridors and outdoors in surrounding streets due to a lack of hospital beds.

Forcing more than 2000 patients to relocate to southern Gaza, where health facilities are already running at maximum capacity and unable to absorb a dramatic rise in the number patients, could be tantamount to a death sentence.”

14 October, 2023

‘Humanity is failing’ — Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for the United Nation’s Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

“In Gaza, families have been bombed while inching their way south along congested, damaged roads, following an evacuation order that left hundreds of thousands of people scrambling for safety but with nowhere to go.

Nearly 2,000 people have been killed and many more have been injured.

There is no power, no water and no fuel. Food supplies are running dangerously low.

Hospitals, overwhelmed with patients, are running out of medicine.

Morgues are overflowing.

Homes, schools, shelters, health centers and places of worship are under intense bombardment.

Entire residential neighbourhoods have been razed to the ground.

Aid workers have been killed.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza, already critical, is fast becoming untenable.

In the West Bank, violence is on the rise, with a surge in civilian deaths and injuries. Families are facing ever greater movement restrictions.

And in Lebanon, the risk of the conflict spilling into the country is a major concern.

The parties’ actions and rhetoric over the past few days are extremely alarming and unacceptable.

Even wars have rules, and these rules must be upheld, at all times, and by all sides.

Civilians and civilian infrastructure, including humanitarian workers and assets, must be protected.

Civilians must be allowed to leave for safer areas. And whether they move or stay, constant care must be taken to spare them.

Essential supplies and services and unimpeded humanitarian access must be allowed.

Anyone held captive must be treated humanely. All hostages must be released.

All countries with influence must exert it to ensure respect for the rules of war and to avoid any further escalation and spillover.

The past week has been a test for humanity, and humanity is failing.”

14 October, 2023

‘Shelters are no longer safe’ — The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees

“Despite the order to evacuate more than 1 million persons from northern Gaza and Gaza City to the southern Gaza Strip, many, particularly pregnant women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities, will not be able to flee the area. They have no choice and must be protected at all times.

Wars have rules. Civilians, hospitals, schools, clinics and United Nations premises cannot be a target. UNRWA is sparing no efforts to advocate with parties to the conflicts to meet their obligations under international law to protect civilians, including those seeking refuge in UNRWA shelters.

UNRWA shelters in Gaza and northern Gaza are no longer safe. This is unprecedented.

This war should be no exception, protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, including United Nations buildings, applies to this conflict too.”

14 October, 2023

‘We are calling for the most elementary humanity’ — Doctors Without Borders

“As the ultimatum given to the population expires, MSF calls on the Israeli authorities to show humanity.

Despite Israeli announcements suggesting that there are safe areas for the population trapped in the Gaza Strip, they are in fact exposed to bombardment throughout all the territory, including in the south, where tens of thousands of people have fled following the ultimatum.

As the Israeli army has been bombarding the Gaza Strip without restraint for a week, we are calling for the most elementary humanity to be shown.

The injunction to nearly 1.1 million people to move in a few hours to an already overpopulated territory with precarious access to food, water and healthcare is as absurd as it is intolerable. Our teams are witnessing the fact that drinking water is becoming scarce in the south of the Gaza Strip and the difficulty of obtaining it is adding to the distress of the population. MSF urgently calls for the restoration of sufficient and immediate access to drinking water for the population of the Gaza Strip.”

14 October, 2023

‘People have nowhere safe to go’  — International Committee of the Red Cross

“The instructions issued by the Israeli authorities for the population of Gaza City to immediately leave their homes, coupled with the complete siege explicitly denying them food, water, and electricity, are not compatible with international humanitarian law.

When military powers order people to leave their homes, all possible measures must be taken to ensure the population has access to basic necessities like food and water and that members of the same family are not separated.

Gaza is a closed area of limited size and resources. People have nowhere safe to go and many, including the disabled, elderly, and sick, will not be able to leave their homes. International humanitarian law protects all civilians, including those who remain. Today, it is impossible for Gazans to know which areas will next face attack.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is scaling up to provide life-saving relief. But our teams will require pauses in the fighting to work safely and effectively. With a military siege in place, humanitarian organisations including the ICRC will not be able to assist such a massive displacement of people in Gaza. The needs are staggering, and humanitarian organizations must be able to increase aid operations.”

13 October, 2023