UN Relief Chief Says Gaza’s Aid Shortages Will Bring ‘Apocalyptic’ Consequences

Martin Griffiths said that the Israeli military's decision to effectively close two major aid crossings will only worsen Gaza's already deadly starvation crisis.
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The United Nations humanitarian chief warned on Sunday that the ongoing massive aid shortage in Gaza will bring “apocalyptic” consequences for the Palestinian enclave, which has faced Israel’s devastating military offensive now for almost eight months.

Speaking to AFP, Martin Griffiths said that the Israeli military’s decision to effectively close the two biggest crossings in southern Gaza as it invades Rafah will only worsen the enclave’s already deadly starvation crisis.

“If fuel runs out, aid doesn’t get to the people where they need it,” Griffiths said while in Doha, Qatar. “That famine, which we have talked about for so long, and which is looming, will not be looming anymore. It will be present.”

“And I think our worry, as citizens of the international community, is that the consequence is going to be really, really hard,” he continued. “Hard, difficult and apocalyptic.”

Gaza was already only receiving a trickle of humanitarian assistance through the aid crossings due to Israeli forces either blocking trucks from entering or attacking them once they entered the enclave. Palestinians in Gaza heavily rely on outside aid, even before Israel launched its military offensive in response to Hamas’ deadly October 7 attack on Israel.

Despite international warnings against an invasion into Rafah ― where 1.4 million Palestinian refugees were essentially corralled to after Israeli forces destroyed their homes in other parts of the Strip – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had his soldiers move forward with their plan to destroy Gaza’s southernmost city, closing up the Rafah and Kerem Shalom aid crossings that trucks used to bring in food, water, fuel and medicine.

As of Saturday, the UN said that more than 800,000 people have been “forced to flee” Rafah due to Israel’s attack on the city ― running to other overcrowded areas of the Strip that Israeli forces have already destroyed and continue to bomb.

Despite providing the near-unconditional diplomatic and military support for Israel in its siege, the US just finished building a temporary floating pier that would help increase the humanitarian aid coming in while most major land crossings remain closed. The maritime operation “is bringing in some aid, but it’s no replacement for land routes,” said Griffiths, the undersecretary for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

On Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with Israeli leaders about making sure humanitarian workers can safely deliver aid to Palestinians and establishing fixed corridors inside Gaza to make sure that the aid actually reaches families throughout the Strip, according to the White House.

Palestinians carry boxes of humanitarian assistance after rushing the trucks transporting the international aid from the new U.S.-built temporary floating pier near Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on Saturday.
Palestinians carry boxes of humanitarian assistance after rushing the trucks transporting the international aid from the new U.S.-built temporary floating pier near Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on Saturday.
AFP via Getty Images

Both humanitarians from the West and from within Gaza are giving their best efforts to keep Palestinian families ― and their own families ― alive, but the lack of aid and the relentless bombing has made those efforts near impossible. Palestinians are dealing with a man-made famine, extreme thirst, lack of medication, no electricity and destroyed sanitation infrastructure that furthers the spread of disease. Israel’s military campaign has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians and stands accused of genocide before international courts.

“We would need to invent brand new words to adequately describe the situation that Palestinians in Gaza find themselves in today. There’s destruction, there’s devastation,” UN Humanitarian Affairs official Yasmina Guerda said from Gaza on Friday. “The exception is to find buildings that are still standing. People are living on top of the rubble and the waste that used to be their lives.”

Adele Khodr, a UNICEF official for the Middle East, said in a statement last week that Israel’s recent invasions into Rafah and northern Gaza have heightened concerns over the lack of clean water and sanitation. Khodr stressed that vital wells in those areas of Gaza are so damaged, that Palestinians ― especially children ― will likely have to rely on contaminated water and subsequently fall ill.

Piles of garbage are accumulating in Khan Younis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip.
Piles of garbage are accumulating in Khan Younis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip.
Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Samah Kassab, a senior program officer with ActionAid Palestine who herself had been displaced with her family several times in Gaza, coordinated with local groups to help install sanitation units and hygiene kits for women and children. In an interview earlier this month with HuffPost, Kassab spoke of how the lack of clean water combined with overcrowding in shelters is causing disease epidemics. She cited how some of the children in her family became infected with hepatitis A, a contagious liver disease that can spread through both contaminated water and close contact with someone who is infected.

“The situation is constantly shifting because of the fighting that is so intense. Access to clean water is a daily battle, and for many of them, they haven’t been able to change clothes in seven months because they just had to flee with whatever they were wearing,” Guerda said.

“Humanitarians are not allowed to import the supplies to build latrines in displacement sites, and so every family just has to find their own creative way to solve that,” she continued. “I was walking through a camp recently, and there was a family ― and I’ve seen several, actually ― dig their own makeshift septic tank. Grabbing pipes, toilet tanks from destroyed buildings so they can have something that resembles a restroom.”

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