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Gaza is a ‘maelstrom of human misery’

Over 330,000 tonnes of waste have accumulated in or near populated areas across Gaza, posing catastrophic environmental and health risks.
Over 330,000 tonnes of waste have accumulated in or near populated areas across Gaza, posing catastrophic environmental and health risks.

Gaza is a ‘maelstrom of human misery’

Peace and Security

With their homes shattered and lives upended by war, civilians in Gaza are clinging to their dignity under the most inhumane conditions, Sigrid Kaag, the UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator, said on Tuesday.

Public services have collapsed and over 1.9 million have now been displaced, she told ambassadors at the Security Council, underscoring the critical need for a full, immediate and complete ceasefire, release of all hostages and unhindered aid across the enclave.

The war has not merely created a humanitarian crisis, it has unleashed a maelstrom of human misery,” she stated.

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International humanitarian and human rights laws must be respected by all, Ms. Kaag stressed.

Protection of civilians remains the paramount priority ... UNRWA must be allowed to deliver on its mandated role.”

Key political engagement

Ms. Kaag briefed Council members of her continued engagement with Government stakeholders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and key cabinet ministers.

She said that Prime Minister Netanyahu has made commitments to expedite the delivery of essential supplies for water, sanitation, waste management, and medical and educational needs.  

She added that there has also been an increase in the volume of commercial cargo entering Gaza, “albeit irregularly”.  

“We are in discussion to ensure commercial supplies are in line with the immediate needs of the population,” she added.

Framework for aid delivery

Ms. Kaag further noted that Security Council resolution 2720 (2023), which set up the mandate of the Senior Coordinator, established a framework to expedite, streamline and accelerate the delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza.

“As expected, this has been fraught with challenges,” she said, underscoring the importance of political will, alongside the enabling environment and conditions on the ground.

She updated ambassadors on progress towards the establishment of a Mechanism for monitoring and verification of humanitarian assistance, noting that UN monitors are preparing to deploy to its newly set up offices in Gaza.

“The Mechanism will also serve as the main platform to facilitate entry into Gaza of all critical humanitarian items, consolidating existing practices, further to the intent of the resolution,” she said, urging UN Member States to continue to preposition supplies and to allocate financing to aid agencies.

Senior Coordinator Kaag briefing the Security Council.

Options are also discussed on the feasibility and longer-term planning of the Cyprus Maritime Corridor with direct access to Gaza, she added.

Planning for reconstruction

Ms. Kaag emphasized that while humanitarian assistance will be required “for years to come”, planning and preparing for early recovery and reconstruction is equally important, urging Council members to consider immediate actions that complement and support the humanitarian response.

We cannot ask Palestinian civilians to put their future on hold while they cling to their human dignity under inhumane conditions,” she said.

The Senior Coordinator also highlighted that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has a critical role in Gaza, integral to the enclave’s recovery and reconstruction, and urged the international community to ensure the PA’s financial stability and support its reform, governance, and other capacities necessary to reassume its responsibilities.

Council discussions

In the ensuing discussions, many Council members expressed alarm over the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip and called on Israel to enable humanitarian aid delivery, in line with resolution 2720.

The resolution, adopted in December last year, demanded the parties to the conflict allow the immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale directly to Palestinian civilians throughout the enclave and established a mechanism for speeding up the provision of humanitarian relief consignments to Gaza.

A wide view of the Security Council meeting on the situation in Gaza.
UN Photo/Manuel Elías
A wide view of the Security Council meeting on the situation in Gaza.

Algerian Ambassador and Permanent Representative Amar Bendjama emphasized that the resolution had “proven ineffective”, noting that civilians are forced to eat leaves to survive.

Images of more than 1,200 trucks waiting on the Egyptian side of the border demonstrate the deterrent, complex administrative processes, he said, warning that “without urgent action, the world will witness a humanitarian tragedy.”

Stephanie Sullivan, Ambassador and acting Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States, said her country continues to press Israel to improve humanitarian access, adding that “the best way to address the crisis is for Hamas to accept the ceasefire proposal.”

She cited the US Government’s announcement of an additional $404 million in life-saving aid for Palestinian civilians in the region, adding that for relief organizations to safely carry out their work, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) must improve the overall security environment inside Gaza.

Vassily Nebenzia, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Russia and Council President for July, speaking in national capacity, highlighted that “no matter how carefully Ms. Kaag chooses her words” the reality is that humanitarian access is not being ensured.  

When the channels of aid open, it is for a short time, he said, and citing Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, added that even after the IDF announce pauses of hostilities to enable aid delivery, nothing changes.

Click here for the full coverage of this meeting from UN Meetings Coverage.