‘Please save Gaza, I beg you. It’s dying’: UNRWA staff issue desperate appeals for help
United Nations: Staff and personnel working with the UN agency for Palestine refugees on Sunday described the situation in the Gaza Strip as “catastrophic” amidst Israeli bombardment and appealed for immediate supplies of food, water and medicines for children, pregnant women and elderly in their shelters.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has issued an emergency appeal to support Palestinian refugees in Gaza, saying that hundreds of thousands of Palestine refugees are suffering the consequences of the heavy escalation in violence on the Gaza Strip.
“Please save Gaza, I beg you, save Gaza. It’s dying. It’s dying. It’s dying,” Rawya Halas, head of the UNRWA shelter in Khan Younis, Gaza, said in a video posted by UNRWA on the site X on Sunday.
Since the unprecedented attack on Israel by Hamas militants on October 07, the Israeli military has warned 1.1 million Palestinians living in north Gaza to evacuate south, and thousands of families have been fleeing by vehicle or on foot.
“There are children, elderly and adults for whom I cannot provide. I am UNRWA. I’m the head of the shelter and I cannot offer them anything, neither food nor water.”
In the video, Halas makes an emotional appeal for help, the desperation and sadness in her voice of not being able to provide essential medicines and food to the refugees in the shelter, palpable.
“The situation we are in now is unprecedented and cannot be described with words,” Halas said in the video adding that 15,000 Palestinian refugees are in the shelter. “They left their homes without food or drink.”
She said that in the shelter, there are people who have diabetes, disabled babies and some children who have now contracted smallpox.
“The centre cannot accommodate this number, neither in terms of food, bathrooms, water nor electricity. The electricity will be cut off shortly. We will not be able to attend to people,” Halas said. “We don’t know how to meet their needs. There is nothing, nothing.
“We are looking for someone to give them food and water. They came with nothing. They are not beggars. They have their money but where can we buy supplies? We need insulin, people are dying. We can’t provide them with anything. The situation is a catastrophic, catastrophic, catastrophic situation.”
In another post on X on Sunday, UNRWA staff Azzam said that “being in Gaza these days is all about surviving, not just living. Having some water for a shower is like being in a five-star hotel while having the phone fully charged is a dream.”
With the hashtag ‘Hear Their Voices’, UNRWA is posting messages of desperation and appeal from its colleagues and personnel who are on the ground in Gaza, trying to help the hundreds of thousands of people displaced and impacted over the last week of escalating violence and attacks.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that the “horrific terror attacks” by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel killed more than 1,200 people and injured thousands more last Saturday. These were followed by intense Israeli bombardment of Gaza that has already killed more than 2,300 people and injured thousands more.
UNRWA had earlier noted that since October 07, over 423,000 people have already been displaced. Of them, more than 270,000 have taken refuge in UNRWA shelters. UN Women reports that Gaza is home to 50,000 pregnant women who are struggling to access essential health services as healthcare workers, hospitals and clinics come under attack. Some 5,500 of these women are due to give birth in the coming month.
“A few minutes of the internet is far beyond dreaming. My day starts earlier than before these days, way before sunrise with massive and noisy bombardment happening almost every 10 or 15 minutes throughout the night,” Azzam said.
“These are the sleepless nights literally. Bombardment doesn’t stop during daylight but it is less heavy or maybe I feel so it’s more like the nightmare is always bigger and heavier during the dark. In the daylight, maybe things are a bit calmer. Well, this is how I think,” Azzam said.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths sounded a dire warning in a post on X. “The specter of death is hanging over #Gaza. With no water, no power, no food and no medicine, thousands will die. Plain and simple,” Griffiths said.
In another message, a UNRWA colleague in Gaza said, “We keep repeating that we all should stay together in the same room. If we are to be killed, let us all die together.
“Honestly, none of us are fine,” Helen from Gaza said in a message. She added that those who are dead “are living with us and those of us who are alive are dead.”
Helen further said in the message that UNRWA shared on X that it is a “miracle of God” that they emerged from under the rubble with only some minor injuries.
“They bombed the whole square,” and there are dead bodies all around. “Oh God, Oh God, please help us. If we are destined to die, please let it be sooner rather than later.”