The IRC calls for a humanitarian ceasefire to allow for the free flow of aid and movement of aid workers to reach those in need.
While the primary source of mortality is the ongoing violence, the IRC warns of looming public health crisis.
November 9, 2023 — The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is warning of an imminent infectious disease outbreak in Gaza. With Gaza’s residents relying on contaminated water sources and lacking access to proper sanitation and hygiene, waterborne illnesses like cholera and typhoid will inevitably spread. 95% of the population has no access to safe water, 64% of primary health facilities have shut (OCHA), and life saving medicines are stuck at the Rafah crossing. A month of bombardment and blockade has already led to catastrophic humanitarian suffering for the 2 million Palestinians - half of them children - who are now without safe water and vital medical services. Destruction from the conflict continues to drive a vast humanitarian crisis.
As an organization with experience working in complex, conflict environments, the IRC is working to scale up its response, with partners, focused on immediate life saving health care, and now urgently, infection prevention and control to prevent the spread of disease outbreaks and other health issues that emerge during humanitarian emergencies. The IRC is calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the details of which are outlined in its statement of November 5, to allow aid to flow, the injured to leave, hostage negotiations and release to take place, and civilian protection measures to be put in place to curb unacceptable levels of civilian harm and suffering.
Bob Kitchen, the IRC's VP of Emergencies:
"The humanitarian suffering in Gaza has already reached catastrophic levels, and it’s set to get worse unless something changes immediately. While the overwhelming driver of mortality remains the ongoing violence and destruction, a humanitarian ceasefire now would also serve to help aid agencies get ahead of a looming public health crisis within an already vast humanitarian crisis. Gaza's water and sanitation systems and fragile healthcare sector have been battered by airstrikes. Health facilities are facing a surge in trauma patients, and a dangerous lack of medicines and fuel. Now 95% of the population are unable to access safe water and 1.5 million displaced into crowded settings, and harsh winter weather looms. The conditions are ripe for the spread of communicable and waterborne diseases—diseases that adversely affect children and lead to preventable deaths. Using our expertise delivering infection, prevention and control programs in conflict zones, the IRC is working to scale up our response as quickly as possible. But, without a meaningful humanitarian ceasefire to allow the free flow of aid, the suffering of innocent Palestinian civilians will continue. Immediate and sustained diplomatic intervention is urgently needed to enable a humanitarian ceasefire, which would pave the way for addressing these pressing humanitarian and protection needs and halt the health catastrophe that will lead to more deaths, particularly among children.”
Ahead of Thursday’s humanitarian conference organized by French President Emmanuel Macron, the IRC reiterates its plea for civilians to be protected and for a scale up in humanitarian response. We reemphasize our call for a meaningful humanitarian ceasefire, where the critical components include the free and impartial movement of humanitarian supplies, safe passage for aid workers, the ability of civilians to access essential services, and measures for the evacuation and protection of the sick and wounded, including the release of hostages. The ceasefire must last long enough - a minimum of five days - to allow for aid distribution, the restoration and expansion of humanitarian services, and other necessary actions to reduce the harm and suffering by civilians.