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Israel-Hamas aid: New sea route for Gaza aid is on track

WASHINGTON — A senior U.N. official said Friday that hard-hit northern Gaza is now in “total famine” after more than six months of war. war between Israel and Hamas and severe Israeli restrictions on food deliveries to the Palestinian territory.

Cindy McCain, the U.S. director of the United Nations World Food Program, became the most prominent international official yet to declare that civilians trapped in the most isolated part of Gaza were on the brink of starvation.

“It’s horrible,” McCain told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in an interview broadcast Sunday. “There is a famine – a full-fledged famine – in the north, and it is moving south. »

She said a ceasefire and a significantly increased flow of aid by land and sea routes were essential to address the growing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, where 2.3 million people live.

There was no immediate comment from Israel, which controls entry to Gaza and says it is starting to allow more food and other humanitarian aid through land crossings.

The panel that serves as an internationally recognized monitor of food crises said in March that northern Gaza was on the brink of famine and would likely experience it in May. Since March, northern Gaza has received no aid comparable to that needed to avert famine, a U.S. Agency for International Development humanitarian official for Gaza told The Associated Press. The next update of the panel will not occur until this summer.

The USAID official said preparations on the ground for a new US-led shipping route were on track to deliver more food – including care for hundreds of thousands of starving children – d here in early or mid-May. This is when the US military plans to complete construction a floating pier to receive shipments.

Scaling up aid delivery on the planned US-backed sea route will happen gradually as aid groups test distribution and security arrangements for aid workers, the official said from USAID.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing security concerns that accompany his conflict work. These were some of the agency’s first comments on the status of preparations for the Biden administration’s term. $320 million Gaza jetty projectfor which USAID helps coordinate security and distribution on the ground.

At a factory in rural Georgia on Friday, USAID Administrator Samantha Power highlighted the food crises in Gaza and other parts of the world by announcing a $200 million investment to increase production of emergency nutritional paste for hungry children under 5 years old.

Power spoke with factory workers, peanut farmers and local dignitaries sitting among pallets of dough at the nonprofit Mana in Fitzgerald. It is one of two factories in the United States that produce nutritional foods, used in clinical settings and made from ground peanuts, powdered milk, sugar and oil, ready for consumption in plastic bags resembling large ketchup bags.

“This effort, this vision responds to the present moment,” Power said. “And it couldn’t be more timely, more necessary or more important.” »

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

But aid arriving by sea route, once operational, will only serve a fraction – half a million people – of those in need of aid in Gaza. Humanitarian organizations, including USAID, stress that getting more aid to the borders is essential to avoid famine.

Children under 5 are among the first to die when wars, droughts or other disasters reduce food supplies. Hospital officials in northern Gaza reported the first deaths from hunger in early March and said most of the dead were children.

Power said the UN requested 400 tonnes of nutritional paste “in light of the current severe famine in Gaza and the severe and acute humanitarian crisis.” USAID hopes to provide a quarter of that, she said.

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

USAID coordinates with the World Food Program and other humanitarian partners and governments on security and distribution for the pier project, while American military forces finish building it. President Joe Biden, under pressure to do more to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza as the United States provides military support to Israel, announced the plan in early March.

U.S. Central Command said in a statement Friday that offshore assembly of the floating pier was temporarily suspended due to high winds and swells, which created dangerous conditions for soldiers. The partially constructed pier and the military vessels involved have been transported to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where work will continue.

A U.S. official said high seas would delay the installation for several days, possibly until 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, as military personnel and divers must gear up. water for final installation.

Difficulties this week in delivering first aid through a recently reopened land corridor to northern Gaza highlighted the uncertainty over security and the danger still facing aid workers. Israeli settlers blocked the convoy before it crossed on Wednesday. Once inside Gaza, the convoy was commandeered by Hamas militants, before UN officials took it back.

In Gaza, nutritional treatment for starving children is most urgently needed in the northern part of the Palestinian territory. Civilians have been cut off from most humanitarian supplies, bombarded by Israeli airstrikes and driven into hiding by the fighting.

Rates of acute malnutrition among children under 5 rose from 1 percent before the war to 30 percent five months later, the USAID official said. According to the official, this is the fastest rise in hunger in recent history, more than during the severe conflicts and food shortages in Somalia or South Sudan.

One of the few medical facilities still operational in northern Gaza, Kamal Adwan Hospital, is under siege by parents who bring in thousands of malnourished children for treatment, the official said. Humanitarian officials say many other starving children remain invisible and in need, with families unable to help them pass through fighting and checkpoints to get care.

Saving severely malnourished children in particular requires both a huge increase in aid deliveries and a lasting calm in the fighting, the official said, so that aid workers can set up treatment facilities around the territory and families can safely bring children for the necessary long-term treatment.


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

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