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.
In a heartfelt appeal from Cairo, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for sustained humanitarian access to Gaza, highlighting the dire situation in the besieged enclave. The Secretary-General’s plea comes as essential supplies run critically low, leaving the people of Gaza in a state of desperation.
“For nearly two weeks, the people of Gaza have endured a harrowing ordeal, with no shipments of fuel, food, water, medicine, and other essentials. Disease is spreading, supplies are dwindling, and lives are at stake,” Mr. Guterres declared during a press conference held in Cairo alongside Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
Secretary-General Guterres has been on a mission to the Middle East to witness firsthand the UN’s preparations to deliver massive humanitarian aid to Gaza. He describes the current situation as a “moment of profound crisis, unlike any the region has seen in decades.” This crisis was triggered by what he characterized as “atrocious” attacks by Hamas on Israel that commenced on October 7th, leading to Israel’s siege and relentless bombing of Gaza.
The toll on civilians has been mounting steadily, with the vast majority being women and children. But it’s not just civilians; journalists, health workers, and even UN staff have not been spared from the violence. The situation has left the international community deeply concerned.
Secretary-General Guterres outlined two immediate humanitarian actions that are urgently needed to address this catastrophe. Firstly, he called on Hamas for “the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages.” Secondly, he implored Israel to provide “immediate unrestricted access of humanitarian aid to respond to the most basic needs of the people of Gaza.” Guterres emphasized the need for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to facilitate these critical actions.
In his address, Guterres acknowledged the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people after 56 years of occupation. However, he made it clear that these grievances do not justify terror attacks. He also stressed that as appalling as these attacks have been, they cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
The Secretary-General emphasized the need for rapid, unimpeded humanitarian access to Gaza. “We need food, water, medicine, and fuel now. We need it at scale, and we need it to be sustained,” he implored. This is not a matter of one-off assistance but a sustained effort to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. In practical terms, it means that humanitarians need to be able to get aid into Gaza and distribute it safely.
In this context, Guterres pointed to the critical role of Egypt’s El Arish airport and the Rafah crossing. These are not just essential; they are, in his words, “our only hope” and “the lifelines” to the people of Gaza. Any disruption in the operation of these entry points could exacerbate the already dire situation.
The Secretary-General also warned of the risk of the violence spilling over into neighboring areas if the crisis persists. The longer the situation remains unresolved, the greater the potential for a broader regional conflict.
Guterres expressed his appreciation for Egypt’s role as “a pillar of multilateral cooperation” and its efforts in defusing tensions and alleviating the suffering of the people in Gaza. His visit to Cairo is part of his engagement with regional stakeholders to find a resolution to the ongoing crisis.
As the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate, the international community and relevant stakeholders are closely watching developments and hoping for a swift resolution to the crisis. Mr. Guterres is scheduled to participate in an international summit on Gaza convened by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi this Saturday, which further underscores the urgency of the situation and the need for coordinated international action.