BY ALEX BALUKU
Baluku is a distinguished Fellow of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists, currently reporting from the United States of America on the 78th UN General Assembly. 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, OCT 12, 2023 –The situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate as the ongoing conflict inflicts significant damage, causing widespread displacement and escalating humanitarian needs.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported a surge in mass displacements across the Gaza Strip, with more than 338,000 people now displaced. The cumulative number of displaced individuals increased by 30 percent in just the past 24 hours, emphasizing the rapidly escalating crisis.
According to the Spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General at the UN Headquarters in New York, Stéphane Dujarric, over two-thirds of these displaced people have sought shelter in schools managed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is grappling with an immense influx of internally displaced people (IDPs) numbering nearly 218,000 across 92 of their schools throughout Gaza.
He says the conflict has resulted in devastating damage, with over 2,500 housing units rendered uninhabitable and another 23,000-suffering moderate to minor damage. “Additionally, 88 education facilities have been struck, affecting more than 600,000 children who have been unable to access safe education for six consecutive days.” He adds
Dujarric adds that one of the most critical developments in this ongoing crisis is the blackout that has engulfed the entire Gaza Strip following the shutdown of the sole power plant stressing that this dire situation emerged after Israel halted its electricity and fuel supply to Gaza on October 8 and as a result, essential infrastructure, including desalination plants and water pumps, is unable to function due to the lack of electricity.
“This blackout has exacerbated an impending water crisis, with damaged infrastructure and a limited supply of water in the local market. Due to the blockade imposed by Israeli authorities, the water supply in Gaza cannot be replenished. Humanitarian agencies are experiencing major constraints in providing assistance due to the insecurity that prevents safe access to impacted areas and warehouses.” Dujarric reports.
Despite these challenges, humanitarian workers have managed to provide some assistance, including the distribution of fresh bread to 137,000 displaced people, the delivery of 70,000 liters of fuel to water and sanitation facilities, and the activation of psychosocial support helplines.
Yesterday, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Martin Griffiths, allocated $9 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to urgently support relief efforts in Gaza. UNRWA has also reported that 12 of its personnel have lost their lives since October 7 in the midst of the escalating violence.
Afghanistan Grapples with Earthquake Aftermath
In Afghanistan, the country is dealing with the aftermath of an earthquake that struck, causing casualties and significant damage. As of the most recent update, one person has been confirmed killed, with an estimated 140 injured as a result of a second earthquake. The region had already experienced the direct impact of a previous earthquake, with nearly 17,000 people affected by the initial tremors.
The damage to housing and persistent aftershocks has led to the emergence of several informal sites in Herat City, where displaced families have sought shelter. International organizations are working in coordination with local partners to support these impacted communities.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has provided humanitarian aid to 930 families in affected areas of Herat City, offering shelter assistance to over 700 families whose homes were completely destroyed by the quake. IOM has also supplied four ambulances to the regional hospital in Herat City for the transportation of injured individuals to provincial health facilities.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) distributed essential supplies, including solar lamps and hygiene kits, with a focus on assisting people with disabilities, older individuals, and households headed by women. Plans are also underway to provide psychosocial support to those affected by the earthquake.
Additionally, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) distributed blankets and tents, while the World Food Programme (WFP) dispatched over 81 tonnes of food to address immediate needs.
In the face of these dual disasters in Gaza and Afghanistan, the United Nations remains committed to providing aid and support to affected communities while urging for an immediate halt to the violence in Gaza to prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian crisis.
The Secretary-General’s ongoing diplomacy efforts aim to address the urgent needs and challenges posed by these crises, while international partners are called upon to work together in providing relief and protection to those affected by these unfolding disasters.