Gaza: Humanitarian Aid and Children — [Valerie Vaz in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 1:30 pm ar 8 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Apsana Begum Apsana Begum Llafur, Poplar and Limehouse 1:30, 8 Chwefror 2024

I agree with my hon. Friend that without an immediate and permanent ceasefire, it is hard to imagine how we can turn around this situation and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches the places where it is most needed.

The chief executive officer of Save the Children also said:

“Children are enduring and witnessing horrors, while the world looks on.”

I repeat that for emphasis:

“Children are enduring and witnessing horrors, while the world looks on.”

Why is humanitarian aid not getting to children who need it? What are the blocks on humanitarian aid? According to reports, the flow of aid is being drip-fed. Although around 500 trucks per day are needed to meet basic needs, most days fewer than 200 actually make it inside, and on one day this month it was reported that only 30 crossed into Gaza. Human Rights Watch argues that the blocking of humanitarian assistance amounts to collective punishment of the civilian population and poses further grave risks to children. Can the Minister update us on his understanding of why aid is not being distributed as needed, and whether any blocks to aid would constitute the collective punishment of civilians?

Then there is the question of funding itself. The United Nations Children’s Fund has requested $168.3 million to support its response in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for 2024. On 17 January, it said there was a funding gap of $55.5 million. Shortly after the International Court of Justice’s plausible genocide ruling, the UK stopped funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the largest UN agency operating in Gaza, due to allegations from Israel that 12 of the agency’s more than 13,000 staff were involved in the 7 October attacks. UNRWA has since spoken of being “extremely desperate”.

International aid agencies including Oxfam and ActionAid have said they are deeply concerned and outraged at what they have called a

“reckless decision to cut a lifeline for an entire population”.

Amnesty International has said that while allegations against individuals must be independently investigated, cutting lifesaving assistance to millions could amount to collective punishment in and of itself.

It would be helpful if the Minister could update us as to the situation in this regard. What is the latest evidence the Government have seen regarding the allegations, and how are they being investigated further? What assessment have the Government made of the consequences of their decision for the children in Gaza? I know that many of my constituents are appalled that it appears the UK is continuing to send weapons to potentially kill children while withdrawing funding that saves children’s lives. I urge the Government to prioritise upholding their humanitarian obligations and resume the funding.

The ICJ’s plausible genocide interim judgment made it clear that Israel must take steps to prevent acts of genocide, and that its obligations regarding children and aid are key. Can the Minister tell us what the UK is doing to protect children in Gaza accordingly? In terms of the UK’s own obligations, it would be helpful to know what the Government’s response is to the growing call for the increasing of humanitarian aid and the halting of the transfer of weapons or parts for weapons that can be used against children.

All children should be cherished, Israeli and Palestinian. We know that children in Gaza should not be slaughtered, but they continue to be by Israeli forces in unprecedented numbers. We know that children in Gaza are enduring a humanitarian catastrophe with no relief in sight. We know that aid is desperately needed and that children need food, healthcare, shelter and water but are just not getting them. Does the Minister agree that an immediate and permanent ceasefire is the only way to bring about the end of the suffering of children in Gaza and to enable the urgent delivery of desperately needed aid?