UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator Martin Griffiths welcomed the entry of an aid convoy into Gaza on Saturday, the first since the start of hostilities two weeks ago following deadly attacks by Hamas against Israel.
The 20-truck convoy that passed through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt carried life-saving supplies provided by the Egyptian Red Crescent and the UN, including enough water for 22,000 people but only for one day.
The items were approved to cross and be received by the Palestinian Red Crescent, with UN support.
“I am confident that this delivery will be the start of a sustainable effort to provide essential supplies – including food, water, medicine and fuel – to the people of Gaza, in a safe, dependable, unconditional and unimpeded manner,” Mr. Griffiths said in a statement published on his official account on X, formerly Twitter.'Catastrophic' humanitarian situation
The delivery on Saturday follows days of deep and intense negotiations with all relevant sides to ensure that the aid operation resumes as quickly as possible and with the right conditions.
Mr. Griffiths said the already precarious humanitarian situation in Gaza "has reached catastrophic levels" since the hostilities began, and it is critical that aid reaches people in need wherever they are across Gaza, and at the right scale.
"The people of Gaza have endured decades of suffering. The international community cannot continue to fail them," he said.'Lifeline' amid shortages
The Rafah crossing is the sole one open with Gaza, and hundreds of trucks have been waiting to enter Gaza, where essential items are running out.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) also announced that medical supplies from the agency had crossed the border “but the needs are far higher.”
Posting on X, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the need for safe passage of additional convoys, protection of all humanitarian workers, and sustained access for health aid.
In a statement, WHO said that hospitals inside Gaza have already reached breaking point due to shortages and depletion of medicines and medical supplies, which are a "lifeline" for injured persons or those battling chronic and other illnesses.Food on the move
The World Food Programme (WFP) said three trucks carrying 60 metric tonnes of emergency food were in the convoy. The supplies included canned tuna, wheat flour, pasta, canned beans and canned tomato paste.
“This food is desperately needed as the conditions inside Gaza are truly catastrophic,” said WFP Executive Director, Cindy McCain. Highlighting the need for continuous safe access, she said the 20 trucks were “an important first step, but this convoy has to be the first of many.”
WFP has another 930 metric tonnes of emergency food items at or near the Rafah border, ready to go whenever access is allowed again. These stocks are needed to replenish the agency’s rapidly dwindling supplies inside Gaza.
Since the start of the crisis, WFP has provided assistance to some 520,000 people and is expanding operations to support 1.1 million in the next two months. This assistance includes fresh bread delivered daily to people clustered in UN shelters in areas where access is allowed.
WFP supplies flour to contracted bakeries, which produce bread for distribution. However, lack of power and fuel have forced many bakeries to stop working, and one was even hit on Wednesday.'A matter of life or death'
Over 44,000 bottles of drinking water were also on the convoy, or just enough for 22,000 people for one day, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.
“With one million children in Gaza now facing a critical protection and humanitarian crisis, the delivery of water is a matter of life or death. Every minute counts,” said Catherine Russell, the agency’s Executive Director.
The shipment represents a drop in the ocean of immense needs in Gaza, where large parts of critical infrastructure, including water and sanitation systems, have been reduced to rubble.
UNICEF said water capacity is at five per cent of normal levels, and Gaza’s nearly 2.3 million residents are now surviving on three litres of water per person per day.Protect every child
Roughly one million people have been displaced, around half of them children, many of whom are now in overcrowded shelters where limited access to water, sanitation and hygiene are putting young lives at risk of disease outbreaks.
Ms. Russell upheld the need to protect children and for humanitarians to have safe access to reach them and their families.
“Above all, all parties must unconditionally protect every child from harm and afford them the special protection to which they are entitled, in accordance with obligations under international humanitarian law,” she said.
UNICEF has prepositioned additional emergency supplies for up to 250,000 people at the Rafah crossing that can be brought into Gaza in a matter of hours, and more aid is on the way.