Ongoing violence, bombardment and blockade has led to catastrophic humanitarian suffering for more than 2 million Palestinians—half of them children—who are now without clean water, food and vital medical services and face peril and disaster every day in Gaza. More than 100,000 Palestinian civilians have either been killed or injured due to Israeli military operations. Every day this number rises.

The entire population of Gaza is facing acute insecurity and an imminent famine. Virtually all households are skipping meals daily, many going full days without food. Hundreds of thousands in northern Gaza are largely cut off from aid, where food security assessments indicate the highest levels of need.

Despite unprecedented levels of food insecurity, humanitarian aid in Gaza has been consistently denied, restricted and impeded by the Israeli authorities. An immediate ceasefire and a significant scale up of aid efforts are needed to avert further catastrophe.

Find out why Gaza is not receiving enough aid and learn how the IRC is helping Palestinians in need.

How severe are humanitarian needs in Gaza?

Every day, people in Gaza face extreme danger and the uncertainty of not knowing if their families will live to see another day. Nearly 1.7 million Palestinians, about 75% of the population, are estimated to be internally displaced—many have been displaced multiple times.

More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 2023, with more than 50% of the identified fatalities said to be women and children, and a further 79,000 have been injured. Over 100 hostages remain in captivity. Gaza is the deadliest place for civilians in the world.

Learn more about the crisis in Palestine.

What kind of aid do Palestinians in Gaza need?

Humanitarian needs in Gaza are immense and continue to rise as conflict persists. Gaza’s health system is overwhelmed and has not been adequately protected. Meanwhile, more than one million people, half of the entire population, are experiencing catastrophic food insecurity and are at increased risk of acute malnutrition and death. Some families are surviving on as little as 3% of the international standard for daily water intake.

Tragically, 32 people, including 28 children have already died of starvation in Gaza.

Food aid and medical support are urgently needed to curtail humanitarian suffering in Gaza. The IRC reiterates its call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and scale-up of aid.

Food aid is immediately needed to prevent famine

An unprecedented proportion of the population is facing severe shortages of food and clean water, with the entirety of Gaza’s population facing crisis levels of food insecurity and imminent famine. Food insecurity and malnutrition can create devastating and intergenerational impacts on vulnerable groups, including children, pregnant and lactating women, elderly, disabled and injured people, who face high risk of mortality related to inadequate nutrition.

Despite recent talk by Israel of scaling up aid in Gaza, the projection of a famine shows that actions speak louder than words. International humanitarian law prohibits the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, while the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court provides that intentionally starving civilians by “depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival, including willfully impeding relief supplies” is a war crime.

A woman pours water into a young girl's water bottle. Three other children sit nearby, watching on.
Palestinians who left their homes and took refuge in Rafah city due to Israeli attacks, struggle to meet their food, water and other basic needs as they live in makeshift tents under difficult conditions.
Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu via Getty Images

Mahmoud Shalabi, MAP’s senior program manager in northern Gaza, said: “There is nothing left in the market. People have been grinding animal feed and mixing it with the little flour available to make bread to feed their children. But the quality of this bread is unbelievably bad. Even animal feed is now beginning to run out in the market.”

“Children have started going out on the streets with their plates, and empty pots and spoons banging on them and shouting they want to eat. If this situation continues, I’m afraid the worst will happen and more people will die of starvation.”

Medical aid is critical in meeting rising needs

Gaza’s healthcare system is on the brink of collapse—only 15 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are open and partially operational and none can function at full capacity. The few remaining health services are completely overwhelmed and lack health care personnel and basic supplies. Patients are dying from infections as hospitals are pushed to the breaking point. 

“These health care facilities are not built for mass casualty. And in fact, no hospital in the world is built for this kind of sustained severity of mass casualty, nor could any be able to sustain it,” says IRC senior emergency health advisor Dr. Seema Jilani, who deployed to Al Aqsa Hospital in Middle Gaza as a member of the IRC’s emergency medical team.

Since 7 October 2023, the Israeli military has conducted at least 450 attacks on healthcare facilities and personnel in Gaza, equivalent to 73 attacks every month since the war began on 7 October. This also means that every single hospital has been impacted. More than 490 health care workers have also been killed and more than 120 others have been detained, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). There have also been reported allegations of health care workers being subjected to torture.

An IRC officer walks through a makeshift camp for internally displaced children in Gaza.
Arvind Das, IRC Team Lead for the Gaza Crisis, walks through a corridor full of IDPs at the European Hospital in Rafah, Gaza. The IRC/MAP emergency medical teams (EMTs) are offering surge and relief support to hospitals and providing life-saving medical care to injured Palestinians.
Photo: Belal Khaled for the IRC

Mental health support

Even before the increase in hostilities, at least half a million children in Gaza needed mental health and psychosocial support. Now, every child, parent and caregiver in Gaza has experienced profoundly distressing events and trauma, characterised by extensive destruction and displacement. At the same time, they continue to be cut off from critical psychosocial support.

Why is Gaza not receiving enough aid?

As the occupying power in Gaza, Israel has the responsibility to ensure that the occupied population receives food and medical supplies. However, the Israeli blockade of food, water, fuel, and essential medicines and supplies continues to inflict immense suffering on Palestinians in Gaza. 

Israel's ground operations in Rafah have led to the closure of the Rafah crossing and a blockade on entry of humanitarian workers and aid, including fuel, critically hindering our ability to deliver essential services and aid to those in desperate need. An IRC and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) emergency medical team (EMT) was initially scheduled to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing on May 13.

Over the course of April, a daily average of 186 aid trucks crossed into Gaza— just 37% of the aid trucks that entered Gaza prior to the outbreak of war in October 2023. In March, Israeli-imposed access restrictions severely hindered humanitarian operations in Gaza. Lengthy inspections, fuel shortages, and movement restrictions on vehicles and approved drivers lead to substantial delays. Additionally, congestion at the Kerem Shalom crossing is causing significant operational challenges.

IRC CEO and president David Miliband spoke with journalist Christiane Amanpour about the items that may be deemed “dual use” for civilian and military purposes, and so turned away.

“Let’s be clear what kind of items we are talking about: a pair of scissors for use in a health centre,” he said. “My own organisation has doctors—orthopaedic surgeons—working in one of the hospitals in Gaza….They lack the most basic implements with which to do their work. When a pair of scissors gets found on a truck, the whole truck gets turned back.”

The arbitrary denial of humanitarian access is a violation of international humanitarian law. Intentionally using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare by depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival, including willfully impeding relief supplies as provided for under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, is a war crime.

A woman holds a young child outside a makeshift shelter in Gaza.
Fighting and a slow, complex clearance system at Rafah crossing have reduced aid flows to a trickle both into and around Gaza.
Photo: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images

Why are airdrops and the construction of a new port ineffective?

Airdrops are an expensive, inefficient and risky way to deliver aid, especially compared to the better solutions of opening more aid crossings for goods and aid workers, reducing the bureaucracy that is curtailing aid flows and curbing interference with aid traffic. We reiterate that sea routes are not a solution to the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe, and cannot deliver the volume or consistency of aid required to meet the dire needs. 

Israel must provide rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief at speed and scale, through all possible land routes and entry points and within Gaza. Most importantly, an immediate and permanent ceasefire is vital to protect Palestinians from further harm, release the hostages, and allow essential assistance to be provided to people across the whole of Gaza. 

Regardless, only a ceasefire will provide the civilian protection, aid flows, repair of infrastructure and public health measures that are so needed to meet the critical needs of more than 2 million people.

How can more aid be delivered to the people of Gaza?

The international community must work urgently to establish an immediate and sustained ceasefire in Gaza as the only sustainable way to protect civilian lives, including the release of all hostages. All parties must comply with international humanitarian law, which includes the prohibition of the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.

“Aid workers need safety and freedom of movement within Gaza to reach and care for malnourished children and all civilians in need,” explains Duerden. “Only a ceasefire and unhindered aid access will give any kind of meaningful respite to the suffering.”

Urge congress to call for a ceasefire now.

At the same time, steps are needed now to support a massive scale-up in humanitarian assistance to Gaza, which will also be critical in the event of a stop to the fighting. This includes continued support for the vital work that UNRWA and its partners do to help Palestinians survive one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes of our time.

Boys line up in a single-file line waiting for food.
More than 20 children have already died of starvation in Gaza. An immediate ceasefire is needed to curb rising humanitarian needs and enable the delivery of critical services where they are needed most.
Photo: Mohammed Talatene/picture alliance via Getty Images

How is the IRC supporting the people of Gaza?

The IRC’s response in Gaza draws on our global experience and expertise in emergency response, as well as our longstanding presence in the region. Local partners have been leading the response in Gaza and we are supporting their objectives through financial, technical and operational support.

The IRC plans to scale its programming in Gaza as soon as a ceasefire is in place. The IRC will aim to work directly and through partners to provide nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, healthcare and protection particularly focused on separated children.

Emergency Medical Teams

The IRC and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) have deployed six successive Emergency Medical Teams to provide emergency and life-saving medical care, including direct medical care at hospitals, and the distribution of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. The team, composed of trauma doctors, surgeons, paediatricians and disaster experts, are offering surge and relief support to hospitals and providing life-saving medical care to injured Palestinians. To date, our EMTs have delivered at least 384 surgeries and 1,243 consultations, including minor procedures and critical care.

Mental health support for children

In partnership withAnera, the IRC is working to provide essential mental health and psychosocial support to Palestinian children. We are utilising a comprehensive approach that prioritises the needs of children between the ages of 4 and 18, to implement therapeutic activities including play, art therapy and life skills training. Our activities are designed to empower children to cope with their experiences, express themselves creatively and develop essential life skills for the future, thereby promoting healing, resilience and emotional wellbeing. By fostering a safe and supportive environment, we aim to mitigate the long-term impact of the crisis in Palestine and have started providing psychosocial support services for 9,000 children between 4 and 11 years old and informal literacy and numeracy sessions for 1,200 children, targeting people sheltering in schools.

The IRC has also partnered with Nafs and begun delivering mental health and psychosocial service (MHPSS) activities through six mobile community centres—three in Gaza and three in the West Bank. Our partnership with Nafs is expected to deliver support to 5,000 children within the next few months.

Medical supplies and pharmaceuticals

The IRC has procured and delivered 46 metric tons of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies which the IRC and our partners are distributing to support health facilities across Gaza. These include paediatric and psychotropic medicines as well as trauma supplies and are based on needs identified and coordinated across health actors working in Gaza.

A truck filled with supplies procured by the IRC is en route to Gaza.
Medical supplies procured by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) arrive in Gaza to be distributed to hospitals and clinics to support critical health and medical services.
Photo: IRC

Support for displaced families

We have partnered with Palestinian NGO,Juzoor for Health and Social Development, to address the health and mental health needs of those displaced and to provide access to basic services for children and families. Together, our three mobile health teams have provided more than 10,000 patient consultations in northern Gaza. The teams have been providing health services in three shelter clusters in northern Gaza since February. In the first week of March alone, these clinics served almost 7,000 patients and we expect to reach more than 30,000 in the following months.

Helped families with basic needs

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Welfare Association (Taawon) partnered to combat the severe hunger affecting displaced families in Rafah, southern Gaza, where over one million people have been displaced and have sought refuge in what is considered Gaza’s last haven. Together, we delivered fresh food parcels to approximately 3,500 families between January and February 2024.

How can I support Palestinians in Gaza?

The IRC is working with partners to deliver critical emergency aid to families in Gaza and conflict zones around the world.

Donate now to support our critical work.

We are on the frontlines providing critical aid to crisis-affected people in more than 50 countries, including places on the 2024 Emergency Watchlist. You can also spread awareness of the crisis in Gaza by sharing this instagram post.

Learn more about the crisis in Gaza.