Understanding Humanitarian situation in Gaza

During 35+days of hostilities 103 UNRWA staff’s members have died and at least 27 injured since the start of the Gaza crisis.


During 35+days of hostilities (as of November 14th, 2023), 103 UNRWA staff’s members have died and at least 27 injured since the start of the Gaza crisis. This has been the greatest number of UN staffs killed ever in the history of UN.  Israel allowed the opening of a corridor along the main North-South Road in the Gaza strip, dedicated from 10 am to 2 pm. This resulted in the travel of at least 70,000 people, who walked from North to the South. Water and some food have been provided by the UN and NGOs, with monitoring the situation in the south of Wadi Gaza. On the early morning of November 8th, 2023, a demolition took place in Shufat refugee camp that lasted for 5 hours. 10,569 people have been killed since October 7th, 2023 of which 67% of them are believed to be children and women, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. 1,350 children are reported missing and may be trapped or dead under the rubble, according to report.

The number of foreign nationals and Israelis killed on October 7th, 2023, was around 1,400. Since the beginning of the war, at least 63 UNRWA installations have been impacted, with 70% of them in the south of Wadi Gaza in the middle and southern areas. A total of 106 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies including medical supplies, food and drinking water, entered the Gaza Strip through Rafah border, bringing the total number of trucks to 756 since October 21st. 2023, when the first convoy was allowed to enter. Among them, 4 of the trucks were UNRWA trucks. Before the war, 500 trucks, including humanitarian assistance but predominantly commercial supplies, entered Gaza every day. This is now far below the quantities needed to meet the needs of over two million people trapped in Gaza. Fuel being one of the key commodities, hasn’t been allowed since October 7th, 2023, creating problems in lifesaving humanitarian operations in Gaza. Due to overcrowding in the Middle and South, UNRWA shelters are unable to accommodate new arrivals. Some 25,700 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are hosted in the Maghazi camp, including 19,900 IDPs in nearby schools. UNRWA Khan Younis Training Centre (KYTC) is hosting 21,700 IDPs and 16,700 IDPs are sheltering at the logistics base in Rafah. UNRWA installations aren’t designed to host such large number of people and neither UNRWA has an adequate facilities to provide safe and dignified living conditions. There are 30 to 50 toilets in a school, including those for disabilities marking an average of 160 people sheltering in UNRWA schools who share a single toilet. Increased mental health issues, low hygiene levels and a lack of food and basic survival items exist among the people living in shelters. Now, 154 UNRWA installations across all five governorates of the Gaza strip are hosting 787,000 IDPs.

Regarding the health situation, nine out of 22 UNRWA health centers are still operational in the middle and southern areas, with 6,530 patients visiting hospital till November 8th, 2023, including Palestine refugees and non-refugees. More than 180 women are giving birth every day, with an estimated 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza. Midwives are providing medical care for post-natal and high risk pregnant women from the nine operational health centers. Since the beginning of October, 718 of post-natal mothers have been attended in the shelters including, 202 post natal and high risk pregnancy attended at the centers. 953 children were vaccinated in the seven out of the nine active health centers.

UNRWA has been providing continuous health care to IDPs at shelters through 92 mobile medical points, and 267 health workers attended a total of 9,794 cases. On November 7th, 2023, UNRWA facilitated the delivery of emergency medical supplies and medicines from WHO to [i]Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza city. The quantities delivered are under sufficient and having almost two patients for every bed available. 36,000 individuals out of them 62% of whom are females had received psychosocial support including family support and recreational activities. Operation of water wells in Khan Younis and Rafah for the provision of potable and domestic water supply by UNRWA is not sufficient given that the high number of people in the shelters and as well as per WHO standards. About 1.5 liters of potable water and between 3-4 liters of water for cooking, washing and hygiene have been provided by the UNRWA in all shelters. Due to low running fuel, the provision of water either through desalination plants or water tracking, is facing problem. Since October 7th, 2023 eleven bakeries have been hit and destroyed. The WFP-contracted bakeries, along with eight others in the southern and middle areas, are able to provide bread to shelters depending on the availability of flour and fuel. People are forced to queue for long hour outside bakeries, making them vulnerable to bombardments and strikes.

On November 6th, 2023, The United Nations Secretary General stated during his Press Conference that approximately $1.2 billion would be required to address the needs of the entire 2.7 million population of the Gaza strip and half a million Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem[1]. This is far ahead from of the initial appeal of $294 billion in funding made by the UN office on October 12th, 2023, which aims to assist nearly 1.3 million people. Underlining this, the US has allocated $100 million in humanitarian aid for Palestine[2], followed by the EU tripling its aid of 75 million Euros[3]. Since October 16, 2023, EU has provided 263 tons of aid carried by 6 flights through Egypt to Gaza. Altogether till now, comprising received funds and confirmed pledges stand at US$128.1 million (27% of total requirements).

The conference in Paris on November 10th, 2023, organized by French President Macron, called for an immediate ceasefire to end a “hemorrhage of human lives” in Gaza[4]. Among the proposed measures in the conference, the establishment of a maritime corridor and the deployment of a floating hospital were included. As the territorial waters and airspace are controlled, there is a demand for additional humanitarian measures, like opening of Kerem Shalom corridor, except Raffah, were proposed in the Paris Conference[5].

Way forward

Addressing the situation in Gaza is of paramount importance, and urgent action is ultimately needed. In the current situation, there is no alternative but to seal a ceasefire deal between belligerent parties to protect innocent civilians. This is essential to bring situation under control, unhindered by the full accessibility of humanitarian supplies, including food, drinking water, medical supplies, and fuel, through all possible corridors such as Rafah, Kerem Shalom, Erez crossing, and loosening the fortified perimeter. Adhering to international law is a must to protect civilians, especially women and children. The global community should fill the funding gap of $1.2 billion, required for the well-functioning of the health care, infrastructure reconstruction, food, water and sanitation.

In addition to this, repairing water supply, shelter, and ensuring access to education for kids is a must. On a global level, international coordination is necessary to control the degrading situation, including monitoring and evaluation of fund disbursement and addressing Human Rights violations.

At last, according to the Sphere Standards, the status of WASH, Food Security and Nutrition, Shelter and Settlement, and health has been in a precarious state in Gaza. The residents in Gaza should be assessed from a purely humanitarian perspective, rather than analyzing through the lens of realpolitik in global politics.

[1] UNSG Press Release, UN Secretary-General’s Press Conference | United Nations in India

[2] White House, U.S. Announcement of Humanitarian Assistance to the Palestinian People | The White House

[3] Reuters, EU triples immediate humanitarian aid for Gaza | Reuters

[4] Reuters, Aid groups call at Paris conference for immediate ceasefire in Gaza | Reuters

[5] AP, Israel-Hamas war: Officials gather in Paris to find ways to get aid to Gaza | AP News

[i] Please also read UNRWA, https://www.unrwa.org/resources/reports/unrwa-situation-report-29-situation-gaza-strip-and-west-bank-including-east-Jerusalem  (As of November 12th, 2023).

Saurav Raj Pant
Saurav Raj Pant
PhD. Student of International Relations & Diplomacy of Tribhuvan University, Nepal


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