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UNRWA: the scale of the tragedy in Gaza is unprecedented 

November 2, 2023 at 3:26 pm

Injured Palestinians and their families take shelter in a school of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) during the 18th day of Israeli airstrikes in Rafah, Gaza on October 24, 2023. [Abed Rahim Khatib – Anadolu Agency]

The Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has described the “tragedy” in the Gaza Strip as “unprecedented” following his visit to the Palestinian territory.

“This was the first time I have been allowed in since the beginning of this horrific war, almost four weeks ago,” said Philippe Lazzarini. “The scale of the tragedy is unprecedented.”

According to the Wafa news agency, Lazzarini met with displaced Palestinians who had sought refuge in one of the UNRWA schools located in Rafah city.

“They showed me where it was damaged during bombardments. One person was killed and more than 80 were injured. The place was overcrowded,” he explained. “The levels of distress and the unsanitary living conditions were beyond comprehension. Everyone was just asking for water and food. Instead of being at school, learning, children were asking for a sip of water and a piece of bread. It was heart-wrenching. Above all, people were asking for a ceasefire. They want this tragedy to end.” This, he added, was one of the saddest days in his humanitarian work.

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UNRWA is currently the sole remaining vital resource for survival in Gaza, given the depletion of local markets. The supplies of water, food, medicine and fuel are dwindling rapidly, noted Lazzarini.

“Every day becomes bleaker as we continue to lose colleagues. Where will this end? More than 70 UNRWA colleagues have been killed since 7 October, often along with their families.” Expressing his “admiration and respect” for his colleagues, he called them “a ray of light” coming out of Gaza.

“They have been impacted like everyone else. They are also displaced, they are also struggling to get food, water and safety. Despite that, they are serving the community, making the impossible possible. I reassured them that the Agency is committed to stay and scale up.”

The UNRWA chief pointed out that the current humanitarian response is by far not enough, nor does it match the huge needs of people in Gaza.

“More than ever, we need a meaningful humanitarian response to prevent people dying because of the Siege. I call once again for urgent fuel deliveries. No fuel has come for nearly one month and this is having a devastating impact on hospitals, bakeries, water plants and our operations.”

He concluded by saying that the Agency’s calls are falling on deaf ears. “A humanitarian ceasefire is long overdue. Without it, more people will be killed, those who are alive will endure further losses, and the once vibrant society will be in grief, forever.”

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