'A pause is not enough’: Agencies demand an urgent ceasefire to deliver enough lifesaving aid

Some NGOs have been speaking out to explain why they believe the 'humanitarian pause' is simply not enough and why a ceasefire is needed and now. Credit: AP

Words by ITV News Senior Producer Roohi Hasan

Today has seen the first ‘humanitarian pause’ during the bombardment of Gaza by Israeli airstrikes for the past seven weeks.

Strikes which have cost have a reported 14,000 lives - the majority children (6,000) and women (4,000).

The siege of the Gaza Strip has left it with dwindling fuel, food, water and medicine supplies at a time when the number of injured has reached an estimated 30,000.

This past week the United Nations and World Health Organization reported that the situation had become critical.

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said: "We welcome the start of the humanitarian pause in #Gaza and the movement of humanitarian aid, including for health.

"It's a step in the right direction, but much more is needed. We continue to call for sustained ceasefire to end further civilian suffering."

The UN and WHO said:

  • Fuel had run out at al-Shifa and other hospitals, costing the lives of eight premature babies removed from their incubators.

  • Food had run out with hunger threatening the lives of almost every civilian in Gazaaccording to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP).

  • Medicines and equipment and blood needed by doctors had run out meaning theycould no longer save lives as they usually would.

The UN and major global NGOs have been desperate to deliver lifesaving aid, as the need has never been greater but not been able to due to not being allowed access.

So, Friday's pause is a critical milestone and window of opportunity - but is it enough?

Aid trucks have entered Gaza on Friday as the temporary ceasefire began, but charities say it's not enough. Credit: AP

Israel has agreed to stop bombing in a window of a few hours each day however some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have said that is simply not enough.

Medecins San Frontieres, Save the Children and Amnesty International were amongst half a dozen NGOs who said they had to come together, because of the urgency of what they described now as a "catastrophic" situation.

Joel Weiler, the Executive director of Doctors of the World, said four or five hours isn't enough to evacuate people or provide essential aid in "a meaningful way."

He called the pause "a band aid" not health care, adding "it's not humanitarian access, it’s a joke."

"We need unrestricted access even if Rafah is open it is not enough. We need the pressure of other countries to open more crossings," he added.

He ended by calling on the UK, US and EU to act and push for a sustainable ceasefire.

Al-Shifa hospital, has been the centre of Israeli bombardment across the past two weeks. Credit: AP

Meanwhile, Avril Benoît, Executive Director of Médecins Sans Frontières, (Doctors Without Borders), called the conditions medical staff are working in impossible to treat or aid patients whilst under fire.

She reported that staff are overwhelmed by the scale of human suffering, noting that there are two million people without the basic necessities of life: water, food and medicine.

She reflected not just on the immense physical pressure on medical workers but the "moral distress" for doctors, treating 30,000 injured and seeing lives could not be saved only due the lack of medicines.

Paul O’Brien from Amnesty International welcomed news of the hostage release and a potential window to allow aid in but had a basic question about the new development:

"When this pause is over, where will they all be if war continues again?"

An "immediate or sustained ceasefire" is essential, he added.

Jason Lee, the Country Director of Save the Children, speaking from the occupied Palestinian territory, said the scale of the crisis is devastating, with priority not being given to the protection of civilians and children.

He noted that one child is killed every ten minutes, while thousands more are still missing under the rubble and are presumed dead.

Danila Zizi, from Handicap International, described the trail of devastation being being left on civilians directly and indirectly through deaths and injuries, many long term.

She was definitive that a ‘pause’ is nowhere near enough to reach the population in need, and said: "Aid workers can’t deliver aid for two million people in four hours or four days. Plus we aren’t being allowed to the north."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...