Aid to Israel and Hamas: The new sea route for Gaza aid is on the right track

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior United Nations official said Friday that the hard-hit northern Gaza Strip is now in “total famine” after more than six months of bombardment. The war between Israel and Hamas and strict Israeli restrictions on food delivery to the Palestinian territories.

Cindy McCain, the US director of the United Nations World Food Programme, became the most prominent international official so far to declare that civilians trapped in the most isolated part of Gaza had crossed the brink of famine.

“It's terrifying,” McCain told NBC's “Meet the Press” in an interview that aired Sunday. “There is a famine – a complete famine – in the north, and it is moving south.”

She said that a ceasefire and increasing the flow of aid via land and sea routes is necessary to confront the growing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, which is inhabited by 2.3 million people.

There was no immediate comment from Israel, which controls access to Gaza and says it has begun allowing more food and other humanitarian aid through land crossings.

The committee, which serves as an internationally recognized monitor of food crises, said in March that northern Gaza was on the brink of famine and would likely face it in May. Since March, northern Gaza has not received anything like the aid needed to stave off famine, a USAID humanitarian official in Gaza told The Associated Press. The next update to the board won't come until this summer.

The USAID official said field preparations for a new US-led sea route are on track to bring in more food — including treatment for hundreds of thousands of children suffering from hunger — by early or mid-May. That's when the US Army expects to complete construction Floating dock To receive shipments.

The USAID official said the ramp-up of aid deliveries on the planned US-backed sea route will be gradual as aid groups test distribution and security arrangements for aid workers.

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The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing security concerns associated with the official's work on conflicts. These were some of the agency's first comments on the state of preparations for the Biden administration Gaza Pier Project worth $320 millionUSAID helps coordinate security and distribution on the ground.

At a factory in rural Georgia on Friday, USAID Administrator Samantha Power pointed to the food crises in Gaza and other parts of the world as she announced a $200 million investment aimed at increasing the production of emergency food paste for hungry children under the age of Fifth.

Power spoke to factory workers, peanut farmers and local dignitaries sitting among pallets of dough at the nonprofit Mana in Fitzgerald. It is one of two manufacturers in the United States that produce this nutritional food, which is used in clinical settings, and is made from ground peanuts, powdered milk, sugar and oil, and is ready to eat in plastic bags that resemble large ketchup containers.

“This effort and this vision meets the moment,” Power said. “It could not be more timely, more necessary or more important.”

Under pressure from the United States and others, Israeli officials in recent weeks have begun slowly reopening some border crossings to relief shipments.

But aid coming via the sea route, once operational, will only serve a small portion — half a million people — of those in Gaza who need help. Aid organizations, including the US Agency for International Development, stress that getting more aid through border crossings is essential to stave off famine.

Children under five are among the first to die when wars, droughts or other disasters reduce food supply. Officials at North Gaza Hospital It reported its first death due to hunger in early March, and said most of the dead were children.

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Power said that the United Nations requested 400 metric tons of paste “in light of the severe hunger spreading throughout Gaza at the present time, and the severe and severe humanitarian crisis.” She added that the United States Agency for International Development expects to provide a quarter of this amount.

Globally, at the Georgia plant, the treatment performed there “will save countless lives, millions of lives,” she said.

USAID is coordinating with the World Food Program, other humanitarian partners, and governments on this matter Security and distribution for the dock projectWhile the US military forces finish building it. President Joe Biden, who is under pressure to do more to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza as the United States provides military support to Israel, announced the project in early March.

U.S. Central Command said in a statement on Friday that the naval assembly of the floating dock was temporarily halted due to high winds and sea waves, causing unsafe conditions for soldiers. The partially built pier and the participating military ships headed to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where work will continue.

A US official said high seas would delay the installation for several days, possibly until later next week. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the operation, said the pause could last longer if bad weather persists because military personnel and divers have to take to the water for the final installation.

The difficulties encountered this week during the delivery of initial aid via the newly reopened land corridor to northern Gaza have highlighted the uncertainty over the security situation and the danger still facing aid workers. Israeli settlers intercepted the convoy before it crossed on Wednesday. Once the convoy entered Gaza, it was seized by Hamas fighters, before UN officials recaptured it.

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In Gaza, there is an urgent need for nutritional treatment for children suffering from hunger in the northern part of the Palestinian territories. Civilians have been cut off from most aid supplies, bombed by Israeli air strikes and forced into hiding due to the fighting.

The USAID official said that acute malnutrition rates there among children under the age of five rose from 1% before the war to 30% five months later. The official described this as the fastest rise in hunger rates in modern history, more than what happened in the serious conflicts and food shortages in Somalia or South Sudan.

The official said that one of the few medical facilities still functioning in northern Gaza, Kamal Adwan Hospital, is besieged by parents bringing in thousands of malnourished children for treatment. Aid officials believe many children suffering from hunger remain invisible and in need, with families unable to bring them through fighting and checkpoints to access care.

The official said saving children suffering from acute malnutrition in particular requires a significant increase in aid deliveries and a sustained lull in the fighting, so that aid workers can set up treatment facilities across the region and families can safely bring children in to receive the ongoing treatment needed.

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Bynum reported from Fitzgerald, Georgia. Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldur in Washington and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations.

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