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Returning from Gaza, Handicap International staff warn of the humanitarian situation in the enclave

“Extreme shortages”, “food insecurity”, “omnipresence of bombings”, “collapse of the health system”.

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Returning from Gaza, Handicap International staff warn of the humanitarian situation in the enclave

“Extreme shortages”, “food insecurity”, “omnipresence of bombings”, “collapse of the health system”... Engaged in the humanitarian sector for thirty years, Jean-Pierre Delomier is accustomed to difficult terrain around the world. But this deputy director for international operations at Handicap International discovered, during a recent trip to Gaza, a particularly terrible reality, which he recounted during a press conference this Wednesday, alongside from his colleague Anne Héry, director of advocacy for the association.

It has been almost five months since the Israeli army bombed the Gaza Strip in response to the October 7 massacres perpetrated by Hamas. Since then, the Palestinian enclave has been almost completely sealed off: the population cannot leave it, and few foreigners manage to enter. Returning less than a week ago from Rafah, near the border with Egypt, where there are 1.5 million Palestinians, Jean-Pierre Delomier warned of the lack of drinking water for refugees. “There is no running water in Rafah. The one that flows from the taps is salty.” The population is only minimally supplied with bottled water and food. However, the supply vehicles are ready, but they remain “tanked at the Egyptian border”, he regrets. A few hundred meters away, “lines of trucks, for kilometers, are waiting to be able to enter the Gaza Strip,” noted the professional.

Before the crisis, 500 vehicles entered Gaza every day, today there would be an average of 90. According to the UN, an “almost inevitable widespread famine” threatens the Gaza Strip. Jean-Paul Delomier, who is careful not to use this term while waiting for official figures, describes “extreme shortages” and great “food insecurity”.

Also read “All the seriously injured are left for dead”: French doctors returning from Gaza recount the hell of the war

Faced with the absence of supplies, risky behavior increases. To find food, Gazans go to areas riddled with explosive devices that are still active. “Even if they are aware [of the danger], they prefer to search in ruins,” explains Anne Héry. For Handicap International, mine clearance is essential to protect the population. Two of the association's collaborators, specialized in the "decontamination" of war zones, will enter the enclave this Wednesday to assess the risks. These demining operations would facilitate the return of those displaced since October 7, who, according to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNWRA), number nearly 1.9 million, or more than 85% of the population of Gaza. But many people want to return home. “The bombs littering the return route mean that it will be very complicated,” notes Jean-Pierre Delomier.

While Benjamin Netanyahu asked the Israeli army to prepare to intervene in Rafah, Anne Héry was firm: “The prospect of an offensive in Rafah is not imaginable.” And if “there is no longer a safe place in Gaza” according to Jean-Paul Delomier, any population movement towards the north would lead to a deterioration of the humanitarian situation. This would complicate the delivery of aid, which is already struggling to access the South, where there are Kerem Shalom and Rafah, the two entry points into the enclave. For humanitarians, “only a ceasefire will make it possible to meet the needs” of the population.

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