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WHO warns Gaza is at risk of famine and disease

The World Health Organisation is warning that as the risk of famine grows in Gaza, and more people are exposed to deadly disease outbreaks, a fundamental step change in the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza is urgently needed.

This comes after Qatar and France announced that they had successfully negotiated an agreement between Hamas and Israel to deliver medication to some 45 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for greater humanitarian and medical aid reaching Gaza most vulnerable citizens.

The White House also later weighed in indicating that intensive discussion continued in Qatar about the possibility of a new hostage exchange deal. France and Qatar say urgent medical aid for Gaza would leave for Egypt Wednesday before being taken across the Rafah border crossing – medicine and other humanitarian aid earmarked for some of the enclave’s most vulnerable areas.

French President Emmanuel Macron says, “On January 3, we carried out an operation with the Jordanians to drop food rations on the Gaza Strip, and we are in the process of taking action with Qatar- we have started to act – to deliver medicines to the Gaza Strip and we will continue to do so with all the partners in the region who are helping us with this humanitarian action, who have greatly mobilized our military and our diplomats and on which we are also working with many associations and NGOs – who have been absolutely outstanding on this.”

Qatar says the deal is part of broader efforts to bring about an end to the war in Gaza – key towards that goal is the release of the over 130 hostages still held, with both sides of the conflict welcoming the agreement on medication.

The White House hinted at efforts to build on this concession between the warring parties. White House National Security Council’s Spokesperson John Kirby says, “On the – new hostage deal, what I can tell you is that we’re working on this very, very diligently. That is why Brett was in Doha this past week. I don’t want to get ahead of where we are. But we are having, I would say, very seri- – serious and intensive discussions in Qatar about the possibility for another deal. Obviously, I want to be careful I don’t say too much publicly here as we have these – these talks. But we’re hopeful that it can bear fruit and bear fruit soon, because there’s still, you know, over 100 – about 140 hostages still being held.”

UN Secretary-General earlier this week pointed to what he called the long shadow of starvation stalking the people of Gaza – along with disease, malnutrition and other health threats as the World Health Organisation calls for the opening of more humanitarian routes into Gaza, more trucks being allowed through border checks each day, fewer restrictions on the movement of humanitarian workers and safety guarantees.

WHO’s Health Emergency Officer Sean Casey says, “Every time I went to the hospitals, I saw evidence again and again of the simultaneous humanitarian catastrophe that’s unfolding. We see it every day in Gaza getting worse and worse and the collapse of the health system day by day with hospitals closing, health workers fleeing, casualties continuing to stream, and a lack of access to medicines and medical supplies, a lack of access to fuel to run the hospital generators, to keep the lights on, to keep the machines running. And it’s happening alongside a dramatic humanitarian catastrophe just in the communities. So every day I’d see truckloads and busloads and van loads of people fleeing to the south.”

With Gaza today a logistical nightmare in terms of aid deliveries, the World Food Programme says people there risk dying of hunger just kilometers from trucks filled with food.

The latest integrated Food Security and Nutrition Phase Classification report found devastating levels of food insecurity in Gaza and confirmed that the entire population of roughly 2.2 million is at crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity – which further exacerbates health outcomes.

Greater access – as spelled out by the WHO – for both aid and the humanitarians that distribute such relief- is urgently needed to prevent a deadly combination of hunger, malnutrition and disease that could dramatically add to an already staggering Palestinian death toll in this war.

Source: SABC

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