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, 18 OCT 2023 – The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Martin Griffiths, delivered a passionate plea to the UN Security Council in the wake of the tragic attack on Al Ahli Arab Hospital in the Gaza Strip.
The hospital, which was one of 20 in northern Gaza, had been overwhelmed with patients and healthcare providers. It had been struck once before on October 14th, and it was again hit on October 17th, causing immense loss of life. Mr. Griffiths expressed his horror and despair at the situation, extending his heartfelt condolences to the affected families and wishing a swift recovery to those injured.
The attack on the hospital, which had already breached its maximum capacity, resulted in hundreds of fatalities, including civilians, healthcare workers, and patients. It also left Gaza’s healthcare system in ruins, which is struggling to cope with the increasing number of wounded patients, shortages of medical supplies, water, and fuel.
Mr. Griffiths emphasized the need for all parties involved to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and protect civilians and medical facilities. He urged the Security Council to use its collective influence to ensure these obligations are met.
The ongoing conflict, which began on October 7th, has already claimed a devastating number of lives in just 11 days, surpassing the death toll of the 2014 hostilities. More than 1,300 people have been killed and over 4,200 injured in Israel, with nearly 200 individuals remaining captive. In Gaza, the situation is even more dire, with over 3,000 people killed, more than 12,500 injured, and hundreds missing under the rubble.
Mr. Griffiths stressed that the conflict’s impact on civilians and the catastrophic consequences of further escalation are clear. With an estimated one million people having fled their homes, civilians have nowhere to escape the destruction and deprivation, which is growing by the hour.
Water scarcity is reaching critical levels, with some locations receiving just one liter of water per person per day, far below international standards. This places the population at risk of waterborne diseases.
In response to these dire circumstances, Mr. Griffiths called for immediate, safe humanitarian access throughout Gaza and additional funding for UN agencies providing emergency assistance to the Palestinians.
He also warned that the situation in the West Bank has been deteriorating, with an increase in violence and widespread closures affecting communities’ access to essential services. Mr. Griffiths urged all parties to respect international humanitarian law and appealed for a humanitarian ceasefire to alleviate the suffering.
In conclusion, he expressed admiration for those providing life-saving humanitarian services, including ambulance crews, healthcare professionals, and countless others. Their dedication and bravery exemplify the essence of humanitarianism and the United Nations’ commitment to providing hope and support in times of crisis.