In Gaza, humanitarian air drops useful but with limited effectiveness

After five months of war in the Gaza Strip, the amount of humanitarian aid delivered by truck has fallen drastically and the population is facing serious shortages of food, water and medicine

In Gaza, humanitarian air drops useful but with limited effectiveness

After five months of war in the Gaza Strip, the amount of humanitarian aid delivered by truck has fallen drastically and the population is facing serious shortages of food, water and medicine. In the north of the small territory, where the Israeli offensive began, many residents are reduced to eating fodder. Ten children have already died of “malnutrition and dehydration,” said the health ministry of Hamas, which administers the Palestinian enclave, on Friday March 1.

Foreign military planes began dropping pallets of humanitarian aid there. Jordanian aircraft, with support from the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands, have so far organized most of the drops. Several Egyptian planes did the same on Thursday, as well as planes from the United Arab Emirates.

Humanitarian aid deliveries have been reduced to a minimum since the start of the war, which has left 1,160 dead on the Israeli side, most of them civilians, according to official Israeli data. In a new report on Saturday, the Hamas health ministry announced that 30,320 Palestinians had died since October 7, mostly women and children. The Palestinian ministry also reported, in a statement, 92 deaths in the last twenty-four hours and a total of 71,533 injured in the Palestinian territory since the start of the war.

Faced with this dramatic situation, American President Joe Biden announced that the United States would participate in the airdrops “in the coming days”. “We will join our friends in Jordan and others in airdrops of food and other goods” on Gaza. A US official, however, estimated that these airdrops “could only be a drop in the ocean” compared to the needs.

In addition to the risks associated with dropping heavy packages in crowded areas, residents of Gaza assured Agence France-Presse that many pallets had ended up in the Mediterranean.

Airdrops can only be “a last resort”

For Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), airdrops pose “many problems”. “Help arriving in this way can only be a last resort,” he said. Land transfer is simply better, more efficient and less expensive. » However, he warned: “If nothing changes, a famine is almost inevitable. »

The United Nations accuses Israeli forces of “systematically” blocking access to Gaza, which Israel denies.

Humanitarian organizations, including UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, say the best solution would be for Israel to open border crossings and allow truck convoys to enter and deliver safely .

Airdrops can also be very costly. For Jeremy Konyndyk, president of the NGO Refugees International, airdrops can “only be useful at the margins”. A plane can drop the equivalent of the load of two trucks, but at a cost ten times higher, he told the BBC on Friday. “Rather than airdropping food, we should put strong pressure on the Israeli government to allow aid to be delivered through more traditional channels, which allow aid to be delivered on a larger scale,” he said. he estimated.