United Nations agencies aiding Palestinian refugees warned today that Gaza could face general food shortages within weeks if the border crossing points into the area remain closed.
Matthias Burchard of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) told reporters in Geneva that the re-opening of the Karni crossing, which used to handle 200 to 300 trucks each day is particularly crucial in order prevent a food shortage in two weeks' time.
He told a press briefing in Geneva that the refugee poverty rate has now risen to 88 per cent, with UNRWA now providing food aid to 860,000 people in Gaza alone.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it has been able today to use one crossing point, at Kerem Shalom, to transport some 400 tons of food aid to Gaza, and added that more food aid needs to come in, with commercial stocks running low.
Food and other humanitarian supplies must continue to enter Gaza if a major humanitarian crisis is to be averted, WFP's Simon Pluess told the press briefing.
Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said it is delivering emergency medical supplies and vaccines to help prevent outbreaks of measles, tuberculosis and other diseases among children in Gaza.
With little access in or out of Gaza, stocks of essential medicines are at critical levels, and health facilities are struggling to address the needs of an "exhausted and traumatized population," according to a press release from the agency, which said it is working to treat children suffering from shock and extreme stress.
Despite shortages of everything from fuel to medicines, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed today that hospitals inside Gaza were staying open.
WHO also confirmed that Israel had allowed a brief opening at the Erez crossing so that urgent medical cases from Gaza could be transferred to Israeli hospitals.
Amid the worsening humanitarian situation, UNRWA announced it will start a ten-week programme of games for 192,000 children and youth in Gaza tomorrow.