For the first time in seven years, a humanitarian convoy of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) successfully crossed from Egypt into the Gaza Strip today, carrying enough food to feed around 150,000 people for five days.
WFP's trucks arrived at the Rafah crossing after a seven-hour drive from Alexandria, where the food was procured, across the Sinai Peninsula, the agency said in a news release. This is the first time that WFP has used the Rafah crossing point since the Israeli blockade was imposed in 2007.
The convoy of 18 trucks carried 15,600 food parcels - part of a total batch of 25,000 food parcels - that includes ready-to-eat food such as canned meat, canned beans, tea and dates. A second convoy with the remaining parcels is expected to cross into Gaza in the next few days.
"It is extremely important that we have access to the Gaza Strip from different routes, including the Rafah crossing, to ensure a constant flow of humanitarian supplies to meet the growing needs of the people affected by the recent violence," said Mohamed Diab, WFP Regional Director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and East Europe.
"We are grateful to the Government of Egypt for opening the Rafah crossing and allowing WFP to procure food in Egypt," he added.
To respond to the urgent need for humanitarian aid in Gaza, the UN in Palestine has activated the logistics cluster. Under the leadership of WFP, the cluster is in charge of coordinating the movement of humanitarian assistance into Gaza. The Egyptian Red Crescent is coordinating all the crossing of humanitarian goods through Rafah.
"The opening of the Rafah crossing for humanitarian aid provides a major opportunity to scale up aid delivery to Gaza and needs to be sustained," says WFP Country Director Pablo Recalde. "WFP has provided emergency relief from the onset of the conflict and will continue its food deliveries to Gaza to reach people affected by the conflict."
Since the start of the conflict at the beginning of July, WFP has provided daily emergency food rations to up to 350,000 displaced people in Gaza, while reaching more than 120,000 people with emergency vouchers.
To continue its food assistance programmes in Palestine, WFP requires approximately $70 million for its humanitarian response in Gaza for a period of three months. Yesterday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the announcement of an open-ended ceasefire for Gaza, adding that, after this latest round of killing and widespread destruction, civilians on both sides need a reprieve in order to resume their daily lives, and to allow for humanitarian and early recovery efforts to address the desperate needs of the people in Gaza.