Decrease in aid trucks entering Gaza as access to food dwindles, agencies say

Written by on February 21, 2024

Dawoud Abo Alkas/Anadolu via Getty Images

(TEL-AVIV, Israel) — The number of humanitarian aid trucks entering the war-torn Gaza Strip has decreased over the past few weeks, with the delivery of food aid to the north almost completely stopped, according to the United Nations and the Israeli government.

The causes were not immediately clear but were likely due to a combination of factors. The entry and distribution of aid in Gaza have been disrupted since war broke out after Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that governs the coastal enclave, launched a surprise attack on neighboring Israel on Oct. 7.

Israel has said it is conducting this war to dismantle Hamas and says they are doing everything in their power to protect civilian lives throughout the war.

Now, after five months of war, amidst an ever-growing outcry for aid to help the Palestinian people trapped in a warzone, the United Nations has warned that people are starving.

The Kerem Shalom crossing on the border of Egypt, Israel, and Gaza, one of two locations where aid trucks can enter Gaza after being inspected by authorities, has been impacted by Israeli protesters in recent days. Protesters stood in the way to stop trucks from entering Kerem Shalom, causing the crossing to be closed from Feb. 8-10 and again from Feb. 15-17, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) told ABC News in a statement on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Rafah crossing on the border of Egypt and Gaza, the second location where aid can enter Gaza, has seen a significant decrease in the number of aid trucks crossing into the territory over the past week, according to data compiled by UNRWA, which is the main U.N. agency operating in Gaza.

No food in the north

UNRWA said it has not been able to deliver food aid to northern Gaza since Jan. 23, almost a month ago. The U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP) announced Tuesday that it was pausing deliveries of food aid to the north of Gaza “until conditions are in place that allow for safe distribution.”

Nutrition screenings conducted at shelters and health centers in northern Gaza, which has been isolated by the Israeli military and almost completely cut off from aid for weeks, found that 15.6% of children under the age of 2 — or 1 in 6 children under 2 years of age — are acutely malnourished, compared to 5% in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where most aid enters, according to a report released Monday by the Global Nutrition Cluster, a humanitarian aid partnership led by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). The acute malnutrition rate across Gaza was less than 1% before the war began.

“Of these, almost 3% suffer from severe wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, which puts young children at highest risk of medical complications and death unless they receive urgent treatment,” multiple U.N. agencies said in a joint statement alongside the release of the report. “As the data were collected in January, the situation is likely to be even graver today.”

Desperation and lawlessness are also hindering the transportation of aid inside the war-ravaged enclave, according to the agencies.

A WFP convoy heading north from Gaza City was “surrounded by crowds of hungry people close to the Wadi Gaza checkpoint,” on Feb. 18, the agency said in a statement Tuesday announcing that it would halt aid deliveries to the region. The same convoy faced “complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order,” when it tried to resume its journey north on Feb. 19, according to WFP.

“Several trucks were looted between Khan Yunis and Deir al Balah and a truck driver was beaten. The remaining flour was spontaneously distributed off the trucks in Gaza City, amidst high tension and explosive anger,” WFP said in a statement. “The decision to pause deliveries to the north of the Gaza Strip has not been taken lightly, as we know it means the situation there will deteriorate further and more people risk dying of hunger.”

Decrease in aid trucks entering Gaza

COGAT, the Israeli agency that oversees Palestinian affairs, also confirmed Tuesday that there has been a drop in aid trucks entering Gaza.

More than 450 trucks are waiting on the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, according to Col. Moshe Tetro, an official with COGAT. Part of the problem is that U.N. staff in Gaza have not come to distribute the aid in the trucks, Tetro said during a press conference.

Several countries, including the United States, paused funding to UNRWA at the end of January after the Israeli government alleged several of the agency’s workers were involved in the Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel. UNRWA has said it is investigating the allegations and took swift action against the accused.

Tetro told reporters that politics are playing into why aid trucks are not entering Gaza and why aid is not being distributed in the way it was a few weeks ago. The U.N. also needs to hire more staff to distribute the aid, he added.

Meanwhile, more than 50 trucks entered via Rafah four out of seven days during the first week of February, while 87 trucks entered on Feb. 8, during the second week.

By the end of the week, no trucks had entered through Rafah for three consecutive days and no aid trucks entered on four different days from Feb. 12 through Feb. 18, according to the data. Israel conducted an intense military operation in Rafah during this time to rescue two hostages.

“Without more humanitarian assistance, the nutritional situation is likely to continue to deteriorate rapidly and at scale across the Gaza Strip,” multiple U.N. agencies said in a joint statement Monday alongside the release of the Global Nutrition Cluster report. “With the majority of health, water, and sanitation services severely degraded, it is essential that those that remain functional are protected and reinforced to stem the spread of diseases and stop malnutrition from worsening.”

ABC News’ Jordana Miller contributed to this report.

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