Baluku is a distinguished Fellow of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists, currently reporting from the United States of America. With a keen eye for global affairs and a commitment to delivering insightful coverage of UN activities, Baluku brings a unique perspective to the world of international journalism.
NEW YORK, NOV 18, 2023 – In a devastating turn of events, fuel restrictions in Gaza are exacerbating the humanitarian crisis, severely hindering aid efforts, and leaving over 1.5 million displaced Palestinians in dire need. UN agencies reported on Saturday that fuel deliveries for essential aid operations have been largely prohibited since Hamas’ attack on Israel in October, leading to a cascade of issues affecting water and electricity services.
The World Health Organization (WHO) spearheaded a perilous mission to Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, a facility grappling with a critical shortage of resources. The mission, conducted in an active conflict zone, highlighted the grim reality of a hospital unable to function – no water, no food, no electricity, no fuel, and depleted medical supplies. WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a social media post, emphasized the urgent need for support to evacuate patients, including infants and individuals in critical condition.
Al-Shifa Hospital currently houses 25 health workers and 291 patients, with reports of several patient deaths over the past two to three days due to the shutdown of medical services. Among the patients are 32 critically ill babies, two individuals in intensive care without ventilation, and 22 dialysis patients facing severe compromises in life-saving treatment. The majority of patients are victims of war trauma, according to WHO.
With Israeli authorities recently approving only half of the daily minimum fuel requirements for humanitarian operations in Gaza, Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), expressed concern about the tough decisions now faced by humanitarian organizations. Weeks of delays in fuel approvals have exacerbated an already dire situation.
More than 11,000 Gazans have lost their lives, and thousands more are wounded since the conflict began, as per the latest situation report by the UN humanitarian agency (OCHA). The lack of fuel has resulted in communication shutdowns, closed water stations, hospital closures, and reduced aid deliveries across Gaza.
Although Israel authorized 120,000 liters of fuel to be delivered on Saturday, covering only half of the daily critical needs, UNRWA was informed that the same amount would be delivered every two days. This falls far short of the requirements for essential services such as desalination plants, sewage pumps, hospitals, water pumps in shelters, aid trucks, ambulances, bakeries, and communication networks.
Fuel restrictions have dire consequences, with people now having only two-thirds of their daily needs for clean drinking water. Moreover, large parts of Gaza are at risk of being flooded with sewage, posing a significant health hazard. Public sewage pumping stations, water wells, a desalination plant, sewage pumps, and a wastewater treatment plant have all ceased operations in recent days, according to OCHA.
The crisis is further compounded by the fact that almost 75 percent of Gaza’s hospitals are non-functional, with 25 out of 36 unable to operate due to a lack of fuel, damage, attacks, and insecurity. Eleven hospitals are partially operational, offering extremely limited services.
Humanitarian agencies stress that aid should not be conditional and must not be used for political or military agendas. As the situation continues to worsen, urgent calls for a humanitarian ceasefire echo through the international community.
The scenes of carnage and death following attacks on UN schools, including Al-Fakhoura school, underscore the immediate need for a cessation of hostilities. The UN General Assembly’s recent meeting and the Security Council’s unified call for extended humanitarian pauses emphasize the gravity of the situation, demanding swift action to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian population in Gaza.