Big Issues

Riham Jafari: “The Humanitarian Assistance Allowed Into Gaza Is Completely Inadequate”


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Amid growing demand for a ceasefire from around the world, Israel’s attack on Gaza has resulted in enormous civilian casualties and an expanding humanitarian crisis.

Last month, we reached out to ActionAid to learn more about the status of the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Israel’s bombing and invasion of Gaza has now killed over 10,000 Palestinians, including 4,000 children, according to Hamas’s health ministry. The Israeli government’s stated goal is the elimination of Hamas, the group responsible for the killing of 1400 Israelis on October 7. Hamas still has hundreds of Israeli hostages from that attack.

The dire humanitarian crisis continues to worsen in Gaza following the intensification of Israel’s assault, which has seen Israel cut off the supply of food, water, electricity, and medicine in Gaza. They’ve promised to increase the supply of humanitarian aid, but very little is currently getting through

We spoke to Riham Jafari, Communications and Advocacy Coordinator at ActionAid Palestine who is stationed in the West Bank, for an update on the crisis in Gaza that is affecting more than two million people, with women, children and those with disabilities among the most impacted.

Junkee: What is the status of aid arriving in Gaza?

Riham Jafari: Since the 7th of October, the level of humanitarian assistance that has been allowed into Gaza so far is completely inadequate and not commensurate with the needs of people in Gaza. The United Nations (UN) has reported that before the latest escalation in violence, around 500 trucks a day would enter Gaza with much-needed supplies and that around 100 of these trucks were delivering aid. While initial convoys of trucks with essential supplies like food, water, and medicine have crossed into Gaza, they will not come close to providing for the millions of people who need help. This is a drop of aid in an ocean of need. 

Is there any sign that more humanitarian aid will be able to get through?

What we are sure about is that there are imminent and increasing needs due to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and continuous bombing. Increasing humanitarian aid needs to be delivered to Gaza even after the end of this escalation. The safety and security of those who are delivering aid should be guaranteed. Humanitarian aid should be delivered on a daily basis and should be sustained.

Has it become any easier or safer for humanitarian aid workers to provide relief?

Under continuous bombing and airstrikes against mosques, hospitals, and residential buildings and the damage of main roads and routes in Gaza, humanitarian aid workers face many difficulties in delivering relief and humanitarian need. All humanitarian agencies and personnel have faced significant constraints in providing humanitarian assistance, due to ongoing hostilities, movement restrictions, and shortages of electricity, fuel, water, medicines, and other essential items. Humanitarian partners cannot safely access people in need and warehouses where aid supplies are stored.

Although some injured people are allowed to be taken to Egypt to receive treatment, this number is small compared to the 32,000 wounded Palestinians. We want the border crossing to be open on a consistent daily basis in order to transfer the seriously wounded, so they can get the best treatment. It is not easy to move the wounded due to the damaged roads where ambulances face difficulties in accessing the Rafah border crossing. 

Palestinian civil defense crews find themselves facing two options: spend hours trying to retrieve the bodies or leave the dead under the rubble and rush to other areas to pull out those who are still alive. Ambulances need fuel to operate, and other vehicles are used by civil defense teams to rescue people under the rubble.

How have charities like ActionAid been able to help?

We work with two trusted local partners and through our local partners in Gaza, we were able to deliver food and non-food items to families, but access to supplies is limited and transportation to the shelters is challenging and dangerous for those who are working on the ground. 

Through our partner, Al Awda Health and Community Association (AWDA), we have provided crucial medical services and emergency items. We also offer through our partner, WEFAQ, urgent psychosocial support through hotlines, as well as distributing food parcels and non-food items to affected individuals.

Our teams and partners, like the rest of the population in Gaza, have suffered destruction and displacement. Our colleagues have relocated with their families. We are prioritising our teams’ wellbeing and are in constant contact with them to ensure that they are safe.

Have you seen an increase in funding to organisations like yours?

We launched an emergency appeal, and we received some funds but there are imminent and increasing humanitarian needs due to the continuous bombing.

We hope that we can raise more funds to be able to help more affected people and we are urgently calling for an immediate ceasefire to allow humanitarian organisations to continue their operations in Gaza.

What kind of difficulties are women giving birth in Gaza dealing with? 

Some women and their newborns are displaced only a few hours after delivery. They don’t have access to clothes. How will they wrap their babies to keep them warm? They also lack clean water. Everyone needs water to drink. It’s essential for healthy pregnancies, and mothers who are breastfeeding need to drink extra water to be able to produce milk for their babies.

Newborns are not receiving vaccines. Pregnant and new mothers cannot reach hospitals to receive the medical care they need because of continuous bombing. They cannot access the painkillers and medicine they need after their delivery and prior to delivery due to severe medical shortages.

To donate to ActionAid’s Gaza Crisis Appeal and find out more, head here. For more information on charities trying to help in Gaza, head here

Main Image: A view of a partially collapsed, still operational bakehouse in Nuseirat refugee camp in Deir al Balah, Gaza as civilians line up for bread on November 02, 2023. The bakehouse, which is the only bakehouse in the camp, was hit by Israeli forces. Photo by Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu via Getty Images.