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UNICEF director: Gaza on the verge of a 'catastrophe'

Catherine Russell warned that civilians could die from waterborne diseases if access to clean water isn't "urgently restored."
UNICEF director: Gaza on the verge of a 'catastrophe'
Posted at 8:32 AM, Oct 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-31 10:32:11-04

UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell told the United Nations Security Council on Monday that Gaza is "on the verge of becoming a catastrophe" due to a lack of safe drinking water or sanitation. 

"Unless access to clean water is urgently restored, more civilians, including children, will fall ill or die from dehydration or waterborne diseases," Russell said. 

Her comments come as Israel said it has expanded ground operations in Gaza in its fight against Hamas terrorists. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says over 7,000 people have been killed. 

The Israel Defense Forces is responding to Hamas' attack on Israel, which left 1,400 dead. 

SEE MORE: Israeli troops and tanks continue their advance into Gaza

Russell painted an urgent message at Monday's meeting. 

"Unless access to clean water is urgently restored, more civilians, including children, will fall ill or die from dehydration or waterborne diseases," Russell said. "As if this wasn’t enough, children in both Israel and the State of Palestine are experiencing terrible trauma — the consequences of which could last a lifetime."

She urged the Security Council "to immediately adopt a resolution that reminds parties of their obligations under international law, calls for a cease-fire, demands that parties allow safe and unimpeded humanitarian access, demands the immediate and safe release of all abducted children, and urges parties to afford children the special protection to which they are entitled."

The Security Council comprises 15 nations, including five permanent members — China, France, United States, United Kingdom and Russia — who have veto power. Such a resolution would be unlikely to generate support from allies of Israel, such as the U.S. and U.K. 

SEE MORE: Daughter of man held captive by Hamas urges international support

Russell's comments come as Israel has urged Gazans to flee to the south. But some have said that isn't possible. 

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated earlier this week that nearly 120,000 displaced people are sheltering in 10 hospitals still operational in and around Gaza City.

The United Nations World Health Organization previously said the “evacuation of hospitals is impossible without endangering patients’ lives." 

Israel has limited humanitarian supplies and cut fuel out of fears fuel could be used by Hamas terrorists. 

On Sunday, 33 trucks managed to make it into Gaza, but a bottleneck remains. Prior to Hamas' attack on Israel on Oct. 7, the U.N. estimated that 500 trucks a day provided aid to Gaza.


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