UN chief says ‘incremental progress’ being made toward averting Gaza famine

File: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, March 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
File: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, March 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says there has been incremental progress toward averting “an entirely preventable, human-made famine” in the northern Gaza Strip, but much more is urgently needed.

He specifically calls on Israel to follow through on its promise to open two crossings into northern Gaza so aid can be delivered directly from Israel’s Ashdod port and Jordan, and to allow safe, rapid and unimpeded aid access throughout Gaza.

“A major obstacle to distributing aid across Gaza is the lack of security for humanitarians and the people we serve. Humanitarian convoys, facilities and personnel, and the people in need, must not be targets,” he tells reporters at the UN in New York.

Israel pledged nearly a month ago to improve aid access after US President Joe Biden demanded steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying Washington could place conditions on support if Israel did not act.

“We must do everything possible to avert an entirely preventable, human-made famine,” Guterres says. “We have seen incremental progress recently, but much more is urgently needed.”

A UN-backed report published in March said famine was imminent and likely by May in northern Gaza, and could spread across the enclave of 2.3 million people by July.

“In northern Gaza, the most vulnerable – from sick children to people with disabilities – are already dying of hunger and disease,” Guterres says.

He also appeals for states with influence over Israel “to do everything in their power” to prevent an Israeli assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than 1 million displaced Gaza Palestinians are sheltering and where Hamas has four battalions deployed.

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