JERUSALEM: Famine in the Gaza Strip can be averted if vital aid is allowed into the besieged territory, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said on Sunday, more than four months into the Israel-Hamas war.

“This is a man-made disaster,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, of the dire humanitarian conditions in war-battered Gaza.

“The world committed to never let famine happen again,” he said.

“Famine can still be avoided through genuine political will to grant access and protection to meaningful assistance.” Aid agencies have increasingly voiced concern for ordinary Gazans caught up in Israel’s military campaign against militant group Hamas which has ruled the coastal territory since 2007.

The UN has warned of looming famine threatening virtually everyone in Gaza, while the World Food Programme this week described “unprecedented levels of desperation”.

Lazzarini — under pressure after Israel claimed UNRWA workers took part in Hamas’s October 7 raid that sparked the war — said the last time the agency was able to deliver food aid to northern Gaza was more than one month ago, on January 23.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said the situation in the north of Gaza was “extremely critical”, with concern also mounting about conditions in the south.

Authorities in the Hamas-ruled territory said in recent days a number of children have died from malnutrition.Gazans have said they have had to resort to eating rotten corn and animal feed unfit for human consumption but even that is now running out.

Aid trucks come into Gaza from Egypt via the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom and Nitzana crossings, where checks are carried out.

COGAT, an Israeli defence ministry body governing civilian affairs in the occupied Palesti­nian territories, said four tankers of cooking gas were delivered to Gaza on Saturday.

On Sunday, the Israeli agency said 245 trucks carrying humanitarian aid were inspected and transferred to Gaza.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2024

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