UN Halts Food Distribution in Rafah Due to Supply Shortages and Insecurity From Israeli Strikes

12:00 May 21 2024 Rafa border crossing (معبر رفح)

Displaced Palestinian children line up to receive food in Rafah, Sunday. Credit: AFP Published by Haaretz

Displaced Palestinian children carry containers with food in Rafah, Sunday. Credit: AFP Published by Haaretz

Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment in eastern Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday. Credit: AFP Published by Haaretz

The UN says some 1.1 million people in Gaza – nearly half the population – face catastrophic levels of hunger and that the territory is on the brink of famine. The crisis in humanitarian supplies has spiraled in the two weeks since Israel launched an incursion into Rafah on May 6

The Associated Press
May 21, 2024 10:56 pm IDT
Published by Haaretz, May 21, 2024

The United Nations said Tuesday it suspended food distribution in Rafah due to lack of supplies and insecurity. It also said no aid trucks entered in the past two days via a floating pier set up by the U.S. for sea deliveries.

The UN has not specified how many people have stayed in Rafah since the Israeli military began its intensified assault there two weeks ago, but apparently several hundred thousand people remain.

The World Food Program said it was also running out of food for central Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing Rafah have sought shelter in a chaotic exodus, setting up new tent camps or crowding into areas already devastated by previous Israeli offensives.

Abeer Etefa, a spokesperson for the UN's World Food Program, warned that "humanitarian operations in Gaza are near collapse." If food and other supplies don't resume entering Gaza "in massive quantities, famine-like conditions will spread," she said.

The UN says some 1.1 million people in Gaza – nearly half the population – face catastrophic levels of hunger and that the territory is on the brink of famine.

The crisis in humanitarian supplies has spiraled in the two weeks since Israel launched an incursion into Rafah on May 6, vowing to root out Hamas fighters. Troops seized the Rafah crossing into Egypt, which has been closed since. Since May 10, only about three dozen trucks made it into Gaza via the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel because fighting makes it difficult for aid workers to reach it, the U.N. says.

For months, the UN has warned that an Israeli assault on Rafah could wreck the effort to get food, medicine and other supplies to Palestinians across Gaza.

Around 810,000 people have streamed out of Rafah, although Israel says it has not launched the full-fledged invasion of the city it had planned. The United States has said Israel did not present a "credible" plan for evacuating the population or keeping it safe.

The main agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, announced the suspension of distribution in Rafah in a post on X, without elaborating beyond citing the lack of supplies. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UNRWA distribution center and the WFP's warehouses in Rafah were "inaccessible due to ongoing military operations."

When asked about the ramification of the suspension of distribution, Dujarric replied, "People don't eat."

Etefa said the WFP had also stopped distribution in Rafah after exhausting its stocks. It continues passing out hot meals in central Gaza and "limited distributions" of reduced food parcels in central Gaza, but "food parcel stocks will run out within days," she said.

Asked for comment on getting food to Rafah, the Israeli military office in charge of coordinating aid did not immediately reply. Israeli officials say they place no restrictions on the amount of aid going through the crossings. Small numbers of aid trucks continue to enter northern Gaza via a crossing from Israel.

UN: Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

**Noon Briefing Guest

All right, good morning, good afternoon, all. Just a programming note: tomorrow, I will be joined here by our guest, Peggy Walters, who is the Spokesperson and Director of the Department of Media and Communications for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

She will brief you on the IOM’s International Dialogue on Migration. Stefano, I hope you will be there. Good.

. . .

**Occupied Palestinian Territory

Turning to the situation in Gaza, our colleagues from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) tell us that Israeli bombardment continues to be reported across much of Gaza, as well as ground incursions and heavy fighting, especially in eastern Rafah in the south and in Jabaliya in the north of Gaza.

More than 900,000 people — which is about 40 per cent of Gaza’s population — have been displaced over the past two weeks — that includes some 812,000 people from Rafah and more than 100,000 others in northern Gaza.

To date, more than 75 per cent of the Gaza Strip — which is about 285 square kilometres — is under evacuation orders, amid escalating hostilities. Under international humanitarian law, there is no need to remind you, but I will remind you nonetheless, civilians — whether they move or stay — must be protected. Wherever they are in Gaza, their essential needs, including food, shelter, water and health, must be met.

As the large-scale displacement of civilians in Gaza continues, hundreds of thousands of people are experiencing extremely poor living conditions.

Our humanitarian partners — working to provide shelter to the people in Gaza — report that there are no tents and very few shelters left in the distribution.

OCHA says that people displaced from Rafah are seeking shelter in Khan Younis and in Deir al Balah on any open land available, that includes access roads and agricultural land, and damaged buildings that have not been checked and may be structurally unsafe.

Meanwhile, our colleagues are working to provide water, sanitation and hygiene support in Gaza, and they say that there are shortages of hygiene kits and water containers for households to collect and store water. This is especially critical given the ongoing displacement.

As more people move to areas lacking basic necessities such as water and food, our partners trying to maintain health care in Gaza are bracing for a further surge in communicable diseases and in malnutrition.

The escalating fighting in Rafah and in northern Gaza has severely disrupted nutrition services, according to our colleagues working on that part of the response.

In Rafah, the partners of the World Food Programme (WFP) have lost access to more than 100 distribution points for malnutrition prevention activities.
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