ROME, (Reuters) – At least 80 percent of people in Gaza need urgent food assistance and Israel must make access to the area easier for humanitarian aid to be delivered, the head of the United Nations’ food relief agency said on Friday.
The World Food Programme (WFP) said it was becoming increasingly difficult to find food in Gaza, with little available in markets, bakeries running out of wheat flour, flour mills running out of grain and many people too frightened to leave their homes.
“The situation in Gaza is dire with at least 80 per cent of the people needing urgent food assistance,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said during a visit to Rafah, on the Egyptian border with Gaza, to assess the crisis.
Sheeran has sent senior WFP officials to Jerusalem to urge the Israeli authorities to free up access for aid, the WFP said in a statement issued by its Rome headquarters.
Israel’s offensive against Hamas guerrillas in the Gaza Strip has lasted two weeks so far, with Hamas estimating the death toll among Palestinians at 783 people. Israel says its aim is to stop years of rocket fire by Hamas on Israeli towns.
“It’s critical that WFP and all humanitarian workers have free and unfettered access to the people of Gaza at this difficult time,” Sheeran said, adding that food supplies were waiting in warehouses to be supplied to the hungry in Gaza.
The WFP plans to intensity operations in Gaza to reach up to 360,000 of the non-refugee population while the U.N. Relief and Work Agency will meet food requirements among the 1.1 million refugees, the agency said.
The WFP said it had distributed food to more than 70,000 people during pauses in fighting in the past two weeks, taking food to hospitals and flour to the few bakeries still operating. The WFP said its ability to deliver food aid was hampered by the dangerous conditions. It has 130 trucks carrying about 4,000 tonnes of food ready to deliver into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing, but it had been too dangerous to deliver most of it.