UN agency warns food, fresh water rapidly running out in Gaza

By Oriana Boselli

ROME (Reuters) – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Thursday that crucial supplies were running dangerously low in the Gaza Strip after Israel imposed a total blockade on the territory following deadly Hamas attacks.

“It’s a dire situation in the Gaza Strip that we’re seeing evolve with food and water being in limited supply and quickly running out,” said Brian Lander, the deputy head of emergencies at WFP, which is based in Rome.

“WFP is on the ground and is responding and we’re providing food to thousands of people that have sought shelter in schools and elsewhere across the territory. But we’re going to run out very soon,” he told Reuters TV.

Israel announced a total siege on Gaza on Monday, blocking the entry of food, fuel and water into the coastal territory and shuttering all crossing points following Hamas’s weekend rampage that killed more than 1,300 people.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (IRCRC) said on Thursday that fuel for hospital generators in Gaza would run out shortly, adding that its stocks of aid and medicine within Gaza were stranded for want of safe passage.

Besides sealing the border, the Israeli military has also launched massive air attacks on the enclave, forcing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes.

“The people that are seeking shelter and striving to survive in this environment are only going to get into worse and worse situations as time goes on,” Lander said.

He urged both Israel and Egypt to create secure corridors for the WFP to be able to bring supplies into Gaza and to make sure U.N. staff could work safely in the area.

“We’ve seen a number of sites that are considered humanitarian, or clinics and schools that have been hit by the strikes. So, we again, we are calling on the parties to the conflict to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law,” he said.

The U.N. agency responsible for Palestinian refugees (UNWRA) has said 11 of its staff have been killed in the conflict so far. “(It) is a terrible tragedy and we really extend our condolences to their families,” Lander said.

In normal times, the U.N. agency provides direct food assistance to some 350,000 Palestinians monthly, while also offering aid to nearly 1 million people in cooperation with other humanitarian partners via cash transfers.

In a 2023 report, U.N. agencies estimated that 58% of Gaza Strip residents required humanitarian assistance with 29% of Gazan households living in extreme or catastrophic conditions compared with 10% in 2022.

(This story has been corrected to rectify the day of the week to Thursday in paragraph 1)

(Writing by Crispian Balmer; editing by Jonathan Oatis)