WFP warns of ‘apocalyptic’ scenes in southern Gaza

ROME: Daily life has become “apocalyptic” in parts of southern Gaza since Israel moved into the city of Rafah, even as the situation in the north is improving, the United Nations food agency said on Friday.
“The exodus we have seen over the last 20 days or so from Rafah has been a fantastic and horrific experience for many, many people,” said Matthew Hollingworth, World Food Program (WFP) director for the Palestinian territories.
They fled fighting to areas where there wasn’t enough water, health care or fuel, where food was limited, telecommunications had stopped and there wasn’t enough space to dig latrines, Hollingworth said in an online briefing.
The public health situation is “beyond crisis levels,” he said, adding: “The sounds and smells of daily life are horrific and apocalyptic.”
People “sleep to the sounds of war … and wake up to the same sounds,” he said.
WFP was able to provide “decreasing amounts of assistance,” with all of its bakeries in Rafah closed due to lack of fuel and supplies, he said.
From May 7 – when Israeli tanks and troops entered eastern Rafah – to May 20, “not a single WFP truck passed through Egypt’s southern corridors,” Hollingworth said.
WFP also lost access to its main warehouse in the southern Gaza Strip because it was in an evacuation zone, with 2,700 tons of food looted or destroyed during the fighting.
Hollingworth said WFP is serving hot meals to around 27,000 people in Rafah – “but this is not enough”.
In the central areas of the Gaza Strip, where many people have fled, WFP provides around 400,000 hot meals a day and keeps six bakeries operating.
Commercial food is also coming in, he said, but many people don’t have money, and some even resort to exchanging their ID cards – which they need if they want to register for aid.
Hollingworth said aid trucks from Egypt had begun entering the Gaza Strip through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing.
“From May 20 we started receiving minimal assistance,” he said, although he warned that the security situation was still slowing down deliveries.
“This must turn into a wave of aid if we are to ensure that the most acute forms of hunger do not start to become more common,” he said.
In the northern Palestinian territory, by contrast, where U.N. agencies had warned of impending famine in March, Hollingworth said the situation was improving.
With the opening of the crossings, approximately 12,000 tons of inter-agency assistance, mostly food, have been delivered since May 1.
“There has been a sea change in terms of food availability,” he said, although problems with healthcare, clean water provision and sanitation remain.
The United States built a temporary pier in Gaza, but it was damaged by bad weather, suspending deliveries.
During the two weeks it was open, about 1,000 tons of inter-agency supplies came through the dock, Hollingworth said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government was doing everything to avoid famine in Gaza and noted a study that found calorie consumption in the territory was 3,200 a day, more than enough.
“I haven’t seen anyone, not even aid workers living on protein bars, eating 3,000 calories or more in Gaza,” Hollingworth said.
The Gaza war was sparked by Hamas’ October 7 attack on southern Israel, which left 1,189 people dead, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli data.
The militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, of whom 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,284 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

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