NGOs call for the UN Security Council to demand an immediate and sustained ceasefire

  • The UN warns at least 576,000 people in the Gaza Strip are facing famine-like conditions as a result of the conflict.
  • People’s ability to access food is being impeded by Israel's extensive restrictions on supplies, denial of security guarantees, the continued blockade on water and electricity and violence.
  • The IRC and six other NGOs are urging the Security Council to pass an urgent ceasefire resolution, a scale up of humanitarian assistance, and to ensure compliance with international law and resolutions on Gaza.
Read our Feb 28 statement.

Gaza briefing

In Gaza, more than 2 million Palestinian civilians are facing peril and disaster every day. The secretary general of the UN calls this a “humanitarian catastrophe.” Following the work of IRC assessment teams on the ground, and commencement of aid flows from Egypt to Gaza, the IRC has initiated a response to the humanitarian crisis arising from the current conflict. 

What are the main humanitarian challenges?

The escalating conflict in the Middle East on October 7 and since has created widespread death and destruction. As of January 2024, more than 26,000 people have been killed, including 10,000 children, and over 100 hostages taken by Hamas are still in captivity. Dozens of aid workers and over 150 UN staff have been killed.

The Israeli blockade of food, water, fuel, and essential medicines and supplies is inflicting immense suffering on Palestinians. The population also lacks access to electricity and 100% of Gazans are facing crisis levels of food insecurity. This is the highest share of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity that the initiative has ever classified for any area or country.

The health care system has collapsed, with attacks on hospitals leaving much of Gaza’s population without access to any treatment. Insecurity Insight recorded 345 incidents of violence against health care facilities and professionals across Gaza and the West Bank during the first seven weeks of conflict. As fuel reserves expire, doctors and nurses are becoming powerless to treat the sick and injured while ongoing border closures prevent patients in Gaza from traveling to Israel, the West Bank or East Jerusalem for treatment.

With 95% of Gazans lacking access to safe water and 1.7 million displaced into crowded settings, the IRC is warning of an imminent infectious disease outbreak in Gaza. As residents rely on contaminated water sources and lack access to proper sanitation and hygiene, waterborne illnesses like cholera and typhoid will inevitably spread.

Israel has severely restricted the amount of aid entering Gaza after October 7. Before the war, 500 truckloads of aid entered Gaza daily—with needs increased, a huge uplift in aid will be required, but far less is actually arriving. Aid delivery has been further constrained by the damage to roads, lack of fuel, and the displacement and death of humanitarian aid workers. Gaza’s recovery after the fighting ends will depend on whether, and how intensely, Israel maintains its policy of preventing basic goods and services from entering Gaza.

A young child wearing a yellow jacket holds an adult's hands while they walk through a destroyed neighborhood in Gaza.
Displaced Gazans walk through a destroyed neighborhood during a temporary humanitarian ceasefire.
Photo: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images
How is the IRC helping?

There is an imperative to reduce the death and suffering of the civilian Palestinian population in Gaza. 

The IRC and our partners in Gaza are working in hospitals to provide life-saving medical care and deliver critical medical supplies. This has included deploying an Emergency Medical Team (EMT), in partnership with Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), to provide emergency medical care. Composed of trauma doctors, surgeons, pediatricians and water and sanitation experts, the team are offering surge and relief support to hospitals and providing life-saving medical care to injured Palestinians. 

The IRC is also supporting partners to deliver food and provide critical services in emergency shelters including cash assistance and psychosocial support for people to meet their basic needs.

The IRC’s response in oPt draws on our global experience and expertise in emergency response, as well as our longstanding presence in the region. In 2022, IRC teams across Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya helped 6.3 million people.

What needs to happen now?

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is calling for a sustained ceasefire to protect Palestinians from harm, enable the release of all hostages, and allow for a step-change in the assistance provided to people across the whole of Gaza. 

“In a matter of weeks, Gaza became the most dangerous place in the world for civilians,” said Sam Duerden, the IRC crisis/team lead for the occupied Palestinian territory. “Tens of thousands of people have been killed, more than three-quarters of the population displaced and critical infrastructure destroyed. Right now, the people of Gaza need extensive humanitarian assistance to survive, but most of all the restoration of public services and the basic right to live free from fear.”

Learn more about why a humanitarian ceasefire is necessary for civilians in Gaza.

A Palestinian girl walks with her father after the Friday prayer in Gaza on August 4, 2023
A Palestinian girl walks with her father after the Friday prayer in Gaza on August 4, 2023.
Photo: MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images