Opinions

The world’s moral failure in Gaza should shame us all

The G20 members must use their political leadership and influence to help end the war in Gaza.

Martin Griffiths

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

Published On 21 Feb 202421 Feb 2024A woman rests with her children, as people arrive in Rafah after they were evacuated from Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis following Israeli attacks on the medical complex on February 15, 2024 [Reuters/Mohammed Salem]

As the Group of 20 (G20) meets in Brazil this week, the reported death toll in the Gaza hostilities is nearing the 30,000 mark. I hope this gives the foreign ministers convening in Rio de Janeiro a reason to reflect on what their countries have or have not done to stop this.

To say that the war in Gaza is pitiless and is an example of utter humanitarian failure is not news. There is no need to restate the obvious. Instead, allow me – on behalf of my humanitarian colleagues – to warn you not just about today but what I fear for tomorrow.

What has been unfolding in Gaza for the past 138 days is unparalleled in its intensity, brutality and scope. Tens of thousands of people killed, injured or buried under the rubble. Entire neighbourhoods razed to the ground. Hundreds of thousands of people displaced, living in the most abject conditions even as winter sets in. Half a million people on the brink of famine. No access to the most basic needs: food, water, health care, latrines. An entire population is being stripped of its humanity.

The atrocities befalling the people of Gaza – and the humanitarian tragedy they are enduring – are there for the world to see, documented by brave Palestinian journalists too many of them have been killed while doing so. No one can pretend not to know.

No one can pretend not to know either that humanitarian agencies are doing their best: Nearly 160 of our colleagues have been killed, yet our teams continue to deliver food, medical supplies and safe drinking water. We are doing everything we can, despite the security risks, the collapse of law and order, the access constraints and the personal tragedies. Despite the defunding of the largest UN organisation in Gaza. And despite the deliberate attempts to discredit us.

The humanitarian community which I represent has just released a plan outlining what we need to increase the flow of aid into and across Gaza. None of it is unreasonable: security guarantees; a better humanitarian notification system to reduce risks; telecommunication equipment; removal of unexploded ordnance; use of all possible entry points.

But although I have often said that hope is the currency of the humanitarian, I have little hope that the authorities will give us what we need to operate. I want nothing more than to be proven wrong.

We know without a shadow of a doubt that humanitarian agencies will be blamed – we are already being blamed – for the lack of aid in Gaza, despite the courage, commitment and sacrifice of all our teams there.

But make no mistake: The deprivations that the people of Gaza have been enduring are so severe that no amount of aid is enough.

The obstacles we are facing every step of the way are so enormous that we can only provide the bare minimum.

The October 7 attacks on Israel are horrific – I have condemned them repeatedly and will continue to do so. But they cannot justify what is happening to every single child, woman and man in Gaza.

So my message to the G20 foreign ministers this week is clear: We have been pleading with Israel, as the occupying power in Gaza, to facilitate aid delivery – to little or no avail.

We have been calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages – to little or no avail.

We have been urging the parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law – to little or no avail.

We have been exhorting countries which have stopped funding UNRWA to reverse their decision – to little or no avail.

Today, we implore you, G20 members, to use your political leadership and influence to help end this war and save the people of Gaza. You have the power to make a difference. Use it.

Your silence and lack of action will only lead to more women and children thrown into the open graves of Gaza.

Humanitarian agencies are doing everything they can. Are you?

This article was originally published in Brazilian outlet Folha.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.