Humanitarian aid to Gaza must happen now

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Gaza City
Airstrikes have caused severe destruction in al Rimal, Gaza. Marwan Sawwaf/Alef Multimedia/ Oxfam

As conditions in Gaza worsen, Oxfam calls for unimpeded access to food, water, and shelter.

Following the horrific violence in communities in Israel and fighting in Gaza, Oxfam has called for the release of hostages and an end to the cycle of violence.

“Israel has the right to defend its people from attacks and has the obligation to protect civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory under international humanitarian law,” says Oxfam America President Abby Maxman on the day President Joseph Biden traveled to Israel. “President Biden must ensure serious and credible commitments to unimpeded access for humanitarian aid in Gaza, including food, water, electricity, and fuel. He must help immediately de-escalate this dangerous situation. ”

President Biden’s visit to Israel occurred as the humanitarian situation in Gaza is rapidly deteriorating over more than 10 days of bombing and the blocking of basic humanitarian assistance. Food, safe shelter, and medical care are already out of reach for hundreds of thousands of people.

“There is no power, no food, and now no water in Gaza. It risks becoming a breeding ground for cholera and other diseases,” says Amitabh Behar, Oxfam International’s executive director. “The situation for civilians is already intolerable. Humanitarian aid must be allowed into Gaza now.”

All five of Gaza’s wastewater treatment plants and most of its 65 sewage pumping stations have been forced to close. Untreated sewage is now being discharged into the sea and, in some areas, solid waste is accumulating in the streets.

Clean water has now virtually run out. Some people are being forced to drink unsafe water from farm wells. A UN group that is focused on water and sanitation—of which Oxfam is a member—says that only three liters of water a day are now available per person in Gaza. (The World Health Organization recommends a person needs between 50 and 100 liters of water each day).

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Ongoing in conflict in Gaza has damaged buildings and homes in al Rimal district in Gaza. Marwan Sawwaf/Alef Multimedia/ Oxfam

Despite the incredible difficulties, two local organizations Oxfam supports in Gaza have put together a plan to help people now crammed into shelters with hygiene kits (containing soaps, shampoo, sanitary pads and toothpaste) and cash for food from one of the few supermarkets still open.

Early reports from Israel following President Biden’s visit indicate there is a limited commitment to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, but the details are far from clear in the hours following the announcement.

“The commitment of our partners to help is inspiring. But no meaningful humanitarian response can happen without a stop to the violence,” Behar said.

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