(Geneva) The population in Gaza is “dying of starvation”, a senior WHO official denounced on Wednesday, as major donor countries announced the suspension of their aid to the UN refugee agency Palestinians (UNRWA).
“This is a population that is dying of hunger. This is a population that is being pushed to the brink,” said the director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, Michael Ryan, at a press conference in Geneva.
“The Palestinians in Gaza are in massive catastrophe… If you are asking if the catastrophe can get worse, absolutely yes,” he added.
Humanitarian aid is trickling into this Palestinian territory completely besieged by Israel following the unprecedented attack by Hamas on October 7 on Israeli soil.
“The number of calories consumed by Gazans has systematically declined and the quality of diet has fallen. People are not supposed to survive on food aid for months and months or years,” explained Michael Ryan.
And if you mix lack of food with overcrowding and cold and lack of shelter, you have the perfect conditions for there to be a massive outbreak among children.
Michael Ryan, Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program
The war was triggered by an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 in Israel which left around 1,140 dead, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count based on official figures.
Some 250 people were kidnapped during the attack, including around a hundred released at the end of November during a truce. In total, 132 hostages remain detained, including 29 presumed dead according to Israel.
“The risk of famine increases every day”
In response, the State of Israel vowed to “annihilate” Hamas, which took power in Gaza in 2007, and launched a vast military operation which left 26,900 dead and nearly 66,000 injured, largely majority of civilians, according to the Palestinian movement’s Ministry of Health.
“To date, more than 100,000 Gazans are either dead, injured, missing or presumed dead,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during the press conference.
“The risk of famine is high and increasing every day,” he said, as UNRWA’s civilian aid operations are under threat after Israel charged 12 of the 30,000 regional staff agency involved in the October 7 attack.
Several donor countries, including the United States, have suspended funding to UNRWA. According to the Dr Tedros, this will have “catastrophic consequences for the population in Gaza”.
URNWA considers “very important” an independent investigation into Israel’s allegations, which accuses it of “hiring terrorists” in the Gaza Strip, a spokesperson for this organization said on Wednesday in Amman.
Last week, the WHO was accused by the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva of “collusion” with Hamas, saying the UN agency had “chosen to ignore” evidence showing, according to Israel, that the Islamic movement had used hospitals to carry out attacks, hide tunnels and weapons.
The WHO once again refuted these accusations on Wednesday.
“The accusation of collusion (…) is truly irresponsible, because it could put our employees in danger. But I would like to assure the ambassador that there is no collusion and that the WHO denies any accusation. We are impartial and we do our job,” said the Dr Tedros.