04 November 2023

Water supplies critical as Gazans living on two pieces of bread per day, says UN

04 November 2023

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees has revealed how dire the situation is in the Gaza Strip as Israel continues to lay siege to the hemmed-in enclave.

Thomas White, the Gaza director for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), said the average Gazan is living on two pieces of Arabic bread made from flour UN stockpiles.

The UNRWA is supporting about 89 bakeries across Gaza, which aims to supply food to 1.7 million people.

But, he said in a video briefing from Gaza that “now people are beyond looking for bread. It’s looking for water”.

UN deputy Mideast coordinator Lynn Hastings, who is also the humanitarian co-ordinator for the Palestinian territories, said only one of three water supply lines from Israel is operational.

“Many people are relying on brackish or saline groundwater, if at all,” she said.

During their briefing to the UN’s 193 member nations, humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said intense negotiations are still underway between Israel, Egypt, the United States and the United Nations on allowing fuel to enter Gaza.

Fuel, he said, is essential for the functioning of institutions, hospitals and the distribution of water and electricity.

Mr Griffiths said: “We must allow these supplies reliably, repetitively and dependently into Gaza.”

Ms Hastings added that backup generators, essential to keep hospitals, water desalination plants, food production facilities and other essential services operating, “are one by one grinding to a halt as fuel supplies run out”.

Mr White pointed to other major problems.

Sewage is not being treated and instead is being pumped into the sea, he said.

He added: “But when you speak to municipal workers, the reality is once their fuel runs out, that sewage will flow in the streets.”

Mr White has travelled the length and breadth of Gaza in the last few weeks and described the place as a “scene of death and destruction” where no place is safe.

Palestinian UN ambassador Riyad Mansour said a ceasefire is essential to save lives.

Mr Mansour added that “almost 50% of all the structures in the Gaza Strip” have been destroyed by Israel, and the situation for Palestinians “is beyond comprehension and beyond description”.

“It requires all of us to do everything that we can to stop it,” he said.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed back against growing pressure for a humanitarian pause in its war on Hamas to protect civilians and get more aid into Gaza, saying there will be no temporary ceasefire until all hostages are released.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox