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UN officials warn of malnutrition threat as Gaza border crossings continue

UN officials warn of malnutrition threat as Gaza border crossings continue

Najwa Sheikh Ahmed and family are Palestinian refugees living in camp Nuseirat
Every border crossing into the Gaza Strip from Israel remains closed, except for the import of fuel supplies, United Nations officials said today, warning that Palestinians face the rising threat of malnutrition if the current lockdown continues.

Only 32 truckloads of goods have entered Gaza since 18 January, when the comprehensive Israeli closures were imposed, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator (UNSCO) reported. This compares to a daily average of 250 truckloads before June last year.

UNSCO said a backlog of 224 trucks, belonging to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), has now accumulated.

WFP distribution programmes in some areas of Gaza – home to an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians – have already run out of sugar and salt, and UNSCO said the threat of malnutrition is increasing.

Stressing that UN operations must continue, UNSCO officials note that the influx of goods across the border from Egypt into Gaza is only temporary. They add that the situation is being further complicated because the UN's Palestinian staff that have permits to exit Gaza are currently not allowed to do so.

WHO is also concerned that Gaza's fuel distributors are on strike in response to the Israeli border restrictions, which means the territory's health care facilities are not getting the fuel they need. A team of UN staff is planning to meet with representatives of the Distributors Union tomorrow to encourage them to allow the fuel to flow.

Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) reports that some water wells are functioning again after being reconnected to electricity and functioning generators. But 40 per cent of Gazans still have limited access to safe water.

Israel has said its restrictions on border crossings and imports of goods aim to force an end to the daily rocket and mortar attacks launched against Israeli residential areas by militants in Gaza.