Brave aid workers in Gaza put their lives on the line to ensure the well-being of thousands

In Gaza, thousands of aid workers risk their lives on mission to ensure the well-being of others

“Struggling in the Shadow of Tragedy: The Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza”

“It’s an email update that Juliette Touma dreads to open as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepens. ‘I call it the death list,’ said Touma, communications director for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, also known as UNRWA. The list contains the names of her colleagues who have been killed since Israel launched its air and ground war on Gaza, in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that left 1,200 dead and another 240 taken hostage. With every update that lands in her inbox, her hope is that the list will not get longer. ‘Sadly, every time I open that email, the numbers increase,’ said Touma. ‘It is beyond shocking and beyond sad. UNRWA will never be the same without these colleagues.'”

Grim Milestone

UNRWA is an agency that operates in Gaza and other parts of the region, dedicated entirely to assisting Palestinian refugees. With 13,000 aid workers, it is the territory’s largest humanitarian provider. Its work includes operating schools and health facilities. In the ensuing attacks from Israel since Oct. 7, more than 20,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry. Among them are more than 130 UNRWA workers. It’s the highest number of UN aid workers killed in one conflict in the history of the United Nations, a fact that was pointed out earlier this month by UN Secretary General António Guterres.

‘Community of Heroes’

The deaths of aid workers is especially painful for Gaza. Even before the current conflict, 80 per cent of its 2.2 million people relied on aid, according to Human Rights Watch. Like the UNRWA employees, Ewaida was part of a vital humanitarian network that’s now been severely debilitated at a time that it’s most needed. ‘They’re really trying day in and day out to survive,’ said Al Awqati, ‘But also to fulfill their humanitarian duties.’ Many aid workers in Gaza are Palestinians. Their work is deeply personal. According to Touma, 70 per cent of her colleagues have been displaced and many have lost a family member. Yet, they still put on their UNRWA vest every morning and go to work. ‘It’s a community of heroes. These are true humanitarians who are committed to serving their communities,’ she said.

Calls for a Ceasefire

Negotiations to bring more aid into Gaza have been fraught, stalling often in the last two months. On Wednesday, a United Nations Security Council vote to call for a ceasefire and to boost aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip was delayed for a third straight day over a wording disagreement between the United States and Egypt. The need is now so intense, the UN Secretary General recently invoked a rarely used power of his office, Article 99, to warn the Security Council of the imminent breakdown of the humanitarian system. ‘The people of Gaza are looking into the abyss,’ Guterres told the council on Dec. 8. Some of the strongest calls for a humanitarian ceasefire have come from the very organizations that are working on the ground in Gaza. For those who are not on the ground, that advocacy is the real battle. Toronto-based Al Awqati, who is Palestinian-Iraqi, says that is what keeps her motivated. ‘I wake up every day, and I think, how will I do them justice today?'”

As we scroll through our social media feeds, it’s critical to remember the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the toll it’s taking on aid workers. Their unwavering commitment to serving their communities amid extreme danger and hardship is a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit. As global citizens, it’s our responsibility to amplify their voices and advocate for the urgent ceasefire and aid needed to address this dire situation. The courage and compassion of these aid workers should inspire us to stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza, urging world leaders to take decisive action to end the suffering and restore hope to this embattled region.



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