Humanitarian Crisis in the Middle East

Since October 7, 2023, brutal conflict has unleashed unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and escalated tensions in the Middle East. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has repeatedly called for a humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages, adherence to the principles of international humanitarian and human rights law, and the delivery of life-saving supplies at the scale needed. On March 25, 2024, the UN Security Council passed a long-awaited resolution, marking a breakthrough after months of suffering. “The resolution must be implemented. Failure would be unforgivable,” said Guterres in response. 

The number of dead and wounded has continued to rise, while more than 1.7 million Palestinians – about 75% of the total population – have been internally displaced. Many of them have been displaced multiple times, as families have been forced to move repeatedly in search of safety. UN leadership has described the situation as “apocalyptic,” stating, “The people of Gaza are running out of time and options, as they face bombardment, deprivation, and disease in an ever-shrinking space.” 

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How the UN is responding

Amid the devastating loss of life; collapse of water and sanitation services; spread of disease, lack of medical supplies and fuel; and destruction of homes, schools and hospitals, UN staff are on the ground providing desperately needed  support and assistance to vulnerable communities, often at great personal risk. At least 168 UN staff have been killed inside Gaza since October 7.

 

The Work of UN Agencies on the ground

UN Relief and Works Agency

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is a direct service provider offering food, education, and healthcare directly to Palestinians throughout the region, including through UNRWA-run centers in Gaza. The vast majority of the 1.7 million people displaced inside Gaza have sought refuge in or around UNRWA shelters, which are operating at 4 times their capacity — at least.

Read the latest on UNRWA from the Better World Campaign >>

UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) continues to focus on the critical needs of children, including protection and humanitarian assistance. So far, thousands of children have reportedly been killed and even more injured. UNICEF and partners have delivered emergency supplies including water, life-saving medicines, and equipment inside Gaza, but much more is needed to meet the immense needs of civilians. UNICEF has sounded the alarm about rapidly spreading malnutrition among children, which has reached unprecedented levels in Gaza due to the devastating impacts of the war and ongoing restrictions on aid delivery. UNICEF analysis has shown that 31% — or 1 in 3 children — under the age of 2 in northern Gaza suffer from acute malnutrition, a staggering escalation from 15.6% in January.

World Food Programme

The World Food Programme (WFP) is responding in Gaza with pre-positioned food for displaced people or those in shelters, where possible. But without safe access, fuel and connectivity, the ability to conduct humanitarian operations is limited. Given the sharp escalation in the conflict, 2.2 million people the entire population of Gaza are now experiencing crisis or worsening levels of acute food insecurity. 1.1 million Gazans are now experiencing catastrophic hunger—the highest level of food insecurity—a number that has doubled in just three months.

World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) is responding to the crisis by providing life-saving medical supplies, surgical equipment, and trauma kits while expanding emergency care inside Gaza. Following increased levels of internal displacement and overcrowding of shelters and hospitals, WHO has warned that “Gaza is already experiencing soaring rates of infectious disease outbreaks.” As one UN OCHA official noted, “The health care system is or has collapsed. We’ve got a textbook formula for epidemics and a public health disaster.” WHO has further called for all parties to take every precaution necessary to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including health workers, patients, health facilities and ambulances, and civilians who are sheltering in these facilities.