Over 1.4 million people in Gaza forced to flee their homes

More than 1.4 million people in Gaza have been forced to flee their homes, with nearly half of them now taking shelter in United Nations (UN) schools, a senior World Food Programme (WFP) official said at a press briefing here on Friday.

“Nowhere in Gaza is safe. Shelters have been impacted by airstrikes and violence,” said Samer Abdeljaber, country director for Palestine of the WFP.

He said that in Gaza, food was running out and there was limited access to water and electricity, affecting over two million people.

According to Abdeljaber, bakeries will shut within days if fuel is not allowed in, and people are risking their lives while cueing for hours to secure bread, yet many return to the shelters without it.

“The notion of a warm meal is out of reach. There is no way for people to cook,” he said.

Humanitarian convoys have been trickling in since October 21 after two weeks of no cargo going into Gaza, but their scale and frequency are nowhere near enough to eliminate people’s suffering, he said.

According to Abdeljaber, over half a million people in Gaza were struggling to afford basic meals already before the crisis. Gaza also has some of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the world.

Richard Peeperkorn, the Occupied Palestinian Territory representative for the World Health Organization (WHO), told Friday’s press briefing that the WHO had so far received reports of 7,045 deaths, almost half of them children, and of 80,482 people with injuries, of whom 33 per cent were children.

According to the WHO official, an estimated 200 patients in critical condition need to be evacuated from Gaza; 1,000 patients need kidney dialysis for which fuel is needed; 130 prematurely born babies are in incubators; 2,000 cancer patients are at risk; and multiple patients are in intensive care units, on ventilators and receiving machine-assisted care.

But while 23 of the 35 hospitals in the Gaza Strip are still partially functioning, 65 per cent of the locally-operated primary healthcare clinics and 64 per cent of the primary healthcare facilities run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) have been closed down.

So far 16 health workers have been killed and thirty injured on duty, he added.

Peeperkorn also pointed out that there is an increasing number of respiratory tract infections and cases of diarrhoea due to deteriorating water and sanitary conditions at the overcrowded shelters and hospitals.

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