The Secretary-General, along with his Special Envoy Nickolay Mladenov, would like to express their gratitude to the State of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates for their prompt and generous contributions to the urgent UN appeal aimed at averting an imminent humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. This contribution will ensure that the vulnerable people of Gaza are able to access life-saving health, water and sanitation services. We must not forget, however, that to achieve a sustainable solution to the critical humanitarian and socioeconomic challenges that plague Gaza, it is critical to move forward with intra-Palestinian reconciliation, on the basis of the recent agreement brokered by Egypt, including the return of Gaza under the control of the legitimate Palestinian Authority.
We remain deeply concerned by the continued intense fighting in eastern Ghouta and its impact on close to 400,000 civilians in the besieged enclave in Syria. Over the past 48 hours, intense airstrikes and shelling have reportedly resulted in scores of civilian deaths and injuries, as well as damage to civilian infrastructure, particularly in the towns of Duma, Hamourieh, Kafr Batna and Sawa. Meanwhile, since 20 January, tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Afrin due to ongoing hostilities, with 2,000 people being reported as displaced elsewhere in Aleppo governorate. While numbers inside Afrin are extremely difficult to verify, displaced people are reportedly sheltered in schools, mosques and public buildings. The main needs of displaced people include food, medicine and winter items.