Allow more aid into Gaza now, pleads UN health agency chief


Much more lifesaving humanitarian aid must be allowed into Gaza where one in six children is dangerously malnourished in the north of the war-torn enclave, UN health agency chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.

These are “children who survived bombardment, but may not survive a famine”, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros said on X, formerly Twitter. 

Tweet URL

Accompanying the WHO chief’s warning, video testimony from Kamal Adwan Hospital's paediatric unit highlighted the massive scale of needs which UN humanitarians and partners have been unable to relieve, citing aid obstacles by the Israeli authorities in addition to the ongoing fighting.

Medical emergency

Staff at the hospital in Gaza’s far north have been unable to save at least 10 children from dying from severe acute malnutrition and dehydration in recent days, fuelling widespread fears of famine in Gaza after nearly five months of war between Israel and Hamas fighters.

“When a child is supposed to eat three meals and day and ends up eating one meal, that’s not enough,” said Dr. Imad Dardonah. “We can’t even deal properly with 50 to 60 per cent of the cases we receive because we have nothing to given them. The most we can do for them is give them saline solution or sugar solution.”

Ceasefire calls

The development came amid reports of revisions to a draft UN Security Council ceasefire resolution by the United States, calling for “an immediate ceasefire of roughly six weeks in Gaza together with the release of all hostages”.

Resolutions in the 15-Member Security Council need at least nine supporting votes to be adopted and no vetoes by permanent members – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the US.

Meanwhile, negotiations on a ceasefire linked to the release of all remaining hostages continued for a third day in Cairo amid mounting international calls in support of an end to the hostilities, including from US Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday, who urged an “immediate” end to the violence for six weeks.

Red Sea shipping impact 

Amid concerns from UN rights chief Volker Türk on Monday that the Gaza conflict could engulf all countries in the Middle East, UN economists said that maritime trade in the Red Sea plunged in the last two months.

These concerns have been fuelled by “escalating” attacks on shipping there by Houthi fighters in Yemen, which they say are in solidarity with Gaza.

In its latest update on international shipping volumes, the UN trade and development body, UNCTAD, reiterated profound concerns over the disruption to container ships bound for the Suez Canal, a critical waterway offering a more direct route for shipping between Europe and Asia than the one circumnavigating southern Africa.

Carbon data

“Given the risk of attack in the Red Sea, many ships are now avoiding the canal, opting for a longer route around Africa,” UNCTAD said in its latest global trade update. “By the first half of February 2024, 586 container vessels had been rerouted while container tonnage crossing the canal fell by 82 per cent.”

Last year, the key maritime route handled approximately 22 per cent of global seaborne container trade, carrying goods including natural gas, oil, cars, raw materials and many manufactured products and industry components to and from the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. 

The continuing attacks on Red Sea shipping, including the latest reported by the Indian navy on Tuesday, have created an additional headache for the industry.

It has already faced serious disruption caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, which heavily impacted Black Sea trade, along with falling sea levels linked to climate change that have reduced transit through the Panama Canal.

Crisis point

This is the first time that the world has faced simultaneous disruption in two major global maritime trade waterways, with far-reaching implications for inflation and food and energy security, UNCTAD said.

“Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to these disruptions,” said report author Jan Hoffman, who warned of the climate cost of the ongoing risk to global shipping lanes. 

According to UNCTAD, average shipping speeds since December have increased by some six per cent, leaving a huge and damaging carbon footprint.

“Ships rerouted from the Suez and Panama Canal routes are compelled to travel faster to compensate for detours, burning more fuel per mile and emitting more CO2, further exacerbating environmental concerns,” he said.

Share this post

About The Author

Related Posts

Post Comment

Comment List

Latest News

Follow us