Around 150 tonnes of UK aid including blankets and tents enters Gaza

A man salvages rubbish from a home in Gaza (AFP via Getty Images)
A man salvages rubbish from a home in Gaza (AFP via Getty Images)

Around 150 tonnes of aid from the UK Government, including blankets and tents, entered Gaza on Wednesday amid a worsening humanitarian situation in the Palestinian enclave.

In a statement, the UK Foreign Office confirmed that more than 13,000 blankets and 840 family-sized tents had arrived in Gaza to be distributed by the United Nations.

The aid package includes a further 3,000 shelter kits, and shelter-fixing kits, 6,000 sleeping mats and more than 3,000 dignity kits to support women and girls.

A full field hospital including a pharmacy, triage area and maternity care tent will also arrive this week. Ministers hope the hospital will treat more than 100 patients a day.

The hospital will be staffed by both local health workers and international doctors, including many from the UK.

The news comes as the Gaza Strip faces an unprecedented humanitarian emergency, five months after conflict erupted in the enclave following Hamas’ attack on Israel.

Aid agencies and governments are trying to increase the flow of food and other vital supplies to Gaza via road and sea because air drops are expensive and limited in capacity.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health authorities, more than 31,000 people have been killed since fighting erupted in October last year.

A United Nations analysis of satellite imagery found 30 per cent of buildings have been destroyed or damaged in the Palestinian enclave of 2.3 million people, while half a million civilians are believed to be one step away from famine conditions.

International governments, including The White House, are continuing to press Israel to allow greater access for aid operations by land. Israel has denied restricting humanitarian aid.

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said: “Too many people in Gaza are suffering. No one should be without basic amenities like shelter and bedding, and everyone deserves the dignity that basic hygiene kits provide. Our largest aid delivery, combined with a new UK funded field hospital, will save lives.

“But an immediate pause in the fighting is the only way to get aid into Gaza in the quantities desperately needed. This will also allow for the safe release of hostages.

“We could then work towards a sustainable, permanent ceasefire, without a return to destruction, fighting or loss of life.”

Julia Rosell Jackson, senior humanitarian advocacy adviser at Women's Rights at ActionAid UK, said: “Although we welcome the UK’s delivery of aid into Gaza, particularly a much-needed maternity ward, it’s clear that this announcement is little more than a sticking plaster on a gaping wound. The delivery of over 3,000 period products to women and girls will provide small relief, but nearly 700,000 women and girls are unable to access sanitary pads, and many are resorting to using tent scraps as an unsafe and unhygienic alternative.

“When women are giving birth to stillborn babies as they are so severely malnourished amid an acute hunger crisis in northern Gaza and a total collapse of the healthcare system, such a small delivery of aid will do practically nothing to avert the absolute humanitarian crisis facing millions of Palestinians.

“A quarter of Gaza’s population is at risk of famine so it’s extremely disappointing to see that none of the aid mentioned involves food to stave off looming famine. With children die of malnutrition, the Foreign Secretary’s call for a pause will do nothing to deliver aid at the scale needed. As aid workers, we cannot provide effective relief whilst bombs rain down. It’s time for these horrors to end - we need an immediate ceasefire now.”