NEW YORK – Director of UNRWA Affairs in the Gaza Strip Thomas White said there is a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege on Gaza.
“People are scared, frustrated and desperate. Tensions and fear are made worse by the cuts in the phones and internet communication lines. They feel that they are on their own, cut off from their families inside Gaza and the rest of the world,” White said.
Thousands of people broke into several UNRWA warehouses and distribution centres in the middle and southern areas of the Gaza Strip, taking wheat flour and other basic survival items like hygiene supplies. One of the warehouses, in Deir al-Balah, is where UNRWA stores supplies from the humanitarian convoys coming from Egypt.
Massive displacement of people from the north of the Gaza Strip southward has placed enormous pressure on those communities, adding further burden on crumbling public services. Some families received up to 50 relatives taking shelter in one household.
“Supplies on the market are running out while the humanitarian aid coming into the Gaza Strip on trucks from Egypt is insufficient. The needs of the communities are immense, if only for basic survival, while the aid we receive is meager and inconsistent,” added White.
To date, just over 80 trucks of aid crossed into Gaza in one week. On Saturday, there was no convoy due to the blackout in communications. UNRWA – the main actor for the reception and storage of aid in the Gaza Strip – was not able to communicate with the different parties to coordinate the passage of the convoy.
“The current system of convoys is geared to fail. Very few trucks, slow processes, strict inspections, supplies that do not match the requirements of UNRWA and the other aid organizations, and mostly the ongoing ban on fuel, are all a recipe for a failed system. We call for a regular and steady flow line of humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip to respond to the needs especially as tensions and frustrations grow,” concluded White.
Meanwhile, UNRWA teams in Gaza have reported that internet services and connections were restored. They will reassess the situation with the aim of resuming convoys and distribution of assistance this morning.