Gaza children

Palestinian children are pictured near makeshift tents in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on March 7, 2024.

(Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Starving Children in Gaza 'Cannot Wait' Weeks for US Port, Aid Groups Say

"They are already dying from malnutrition and saving their lives is a matter of hours or days," said Jason Lee of Save the Children.

Leading humanitarian groups said Friday that starving people in Gaza, including more than a million children, are in need of immediate aid and can't afford to wait for the U.S. military to construct a port on the enclave's coast, a project that's expected to take weeks.

"Children in Gaza cannot wait to eat," said Jason Lee, country director for Save the Children in the occupied Palestinian territory. "They are already dying from malnutrition and saving their lives is a matter of hours or days—not weeks."

At least 17 children have starved to death in Gaza, according to Defense for Children International – Palestine, and many more are currently struggling to survive.

Condemning Israel's obstruction of ground-based aid deliveries as "a grave violation against children" and international law, Lee stressed Friday that "there is already a tried and tested system in place to effectively coordinate aid."

"But trucks of food and medicines that could save lives are waiting at crossings, while children are starving just miles away," Lee continued. "Airdrops, with no on-the-ground coordination of who it reaches, and maritime corridors like the one announced yesterday, are no solutions to keep children alive. Neither are substitutes for unimpeded humanitarian assistance via the established land routes."

U.S. President Joe Biden announced during his State of the Union address Thursday night that he has directed the nation's military to "lead an emergency mission to establish a temporary pier in the Mediterranean on the coast of Gaza that can receive large shipments carrying food, water, medicine, and temporary shelters."

The president also said Israel, whose military is armed to the teeth with U.S. weaponry, "must do its part" by allowing "more aid into Gaza"—but did not threaten any consequences if the Netanyahu government refuses.

"Israel needs to facilitate rather than block the flow of supplies. This is not a logistics problem; it is a political problem."

Ground deliveries into Gaza have plummeted in recent weeks as Israeli forces have attacked aid convoys and prevented trucks from entering and moving through the territory. A World Food Program (WFP) official said earlier this week there's enough food to feed Gaza's "entire population" sitting just outside of the strip.

"We need land crossings, we need access to get it into Gaza, whether in the southern parts of Gaza or the northern part of Gaza because the situation is catastrophic. So having access is really our number one priority," said Samer AbdelJaber, WFP's director of emergency.

The WFP has said aid airdrops—which Biden authorized last week—are a "last resort" and "will not avert famine." On Friday, aid packages dropped into Gaza by U.S. military planes killed five people and injured at least 10 others.

Avril Benoît, executive director for Doctors Without Borders, argued Friday that Biden's plan for a temporary port "is a glaring distraction from the real problem: Israel's indiscriminate and disproportionate military campaign and punishing siege."

"The food, water, and medical supplies so desperately needed by people in Gaza are sitting just across the border," said Benoît. "Israel needs to facilitate rather than block the flow of supplies. This is not a logistics problem; it is a political problem. Rather than look to the U.S. military to build a workaround, the U.S. should insist on immediate humanitarian access using the roads and entry points that already exist."

Refugees International said in a report released Thursday that its research teams found Israel is engaged in "routine and arbitrary denial of legitimate humanitarian goods from entering Gaza," forcing aid convoys to undergo "a highly complicated" inspection process "without clear or consistent instructions."

"Our research makes clear that conditions inside of Gaza are apocalyptic," the group said. "After five months of war, Palestinians are struggling to find adequate food, water, shelter, and basic medicine. Famine-level hunger is already widespread and worsening."

Matt Duss, executive vice president of the Center for International Policy and a former foreign policy adviser to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), wrote Friday that while "more aid for Palestinians on the brink of starvation is obviously good," the Biden administration's airdrops and plan for a temporary port underscore "the incoherence of U.S. policy right now, in which we're trying to ease Palestinian suffering while continuing to unconditionally arm and support the government that is intentionally inflicting that suffering."

"The president seems to recognize that ultimately this conflict will require a political solution, but is still unwilling to bring the full weight of America's considerable leverage to that goal," wrote Duss.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.