WFP Executive Board – U.S. Statement on WFP Operations in Gaza Delivered by Charge d’affaires Rodney Hunter
November 17, 2023
Thank you Mr. President. And thank you to Mr. AbdelJaber for the update you gave us today. I’ve worked with the UN system a long time, and that was one of the most informative, focused, and moving statements I’ve heard. Thank you.
The United States condemns Hamas’ devastating terrorist attacks on Israeli citizens and recognizes that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate interests in dignity and self-determination. We support Israel taking necessary action to defend its country and protect its people from Hamas terrorists, consistent with the rule of law and war. We note, also, that as we stand with the people and government of Israel, we also stand with Palestinian civilians.
We remain devastated by the ongoing conflict in Gaza and the deteriorating situation in the West Bank, which continue to take the lives of civilians and increase the need for humanitarian assistance. We recognize and applaud the critical role WFP continues to play in providing assistance to the people in Gaza amidst access restrictions, infrastructure damage, fuel shortages, and depleting food stocks that are severely hampering WFP assistance delivery.
As we continue to work closely with the Government of Israel and Government of Egypt to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza and the West Bank, we urge WFP to continue to match its rapid scale-up and increased programming in Gaza and West Bank with appropriate risk-mitigation and oversight measures to operate effectively and ensure sustained assistance is delivered to beneficiaries in need and not diverted into the hands of the terrorist group Hamas.
The United States unequivocally stands for the protection of civilian lives during armed conflict consistent with international humanitarian law. The United States is working around the clock to support efforts to rescue and reunite with their families hostages held by Hamas.
We have emphasized the importance of pauses in the fighting to permit civilians to depart areas of active hostilities, to increase the flow of aid, and to enable hostage releases. We continue to underscore the importance of compliance with international law, including IHL. We recognize the danger and difficulties faced by WFP frontline aid workers in Gaza and the West Bank, and we recommend WFP share with us how the humanitarian community can help moving forward once humanitarian pauses are established.
Fighting Hamas does not mean fighting the Palestinian people. We know the humanitarian situation is urgent and we continue to focus on addressing the humanitarian needs of the civilian population of Gaza, the vast majority of whom have nothing to do with Hamas, and making sure they can get to safe areas and receive access to food, water, medicine, and shelter. The United States is the leading single-country humanitarian donor to the Palestinian people, having contributed more than 1.1 billion dollars since 2021.
In the update, we heard that the Executive Director and the leadership team were taking necessary actions and leading the response to this crisis from day one. We aren’t surprised by this – we are proud of the amazing work Executive Director McCain has done since taking over this organization. She is definitely the right person to be running this organization at this time.
The United States also appreciates WFP’s leadership and operationalization of the Logistics Cluster established in Cairo, which has enabled the transport of lifesaving assistance inside Gaza and working with other UN counter parts, NGOs and local actors to maintain the prepositioning and flow of supplies into Gaza. Additionally, we thank WFP and its continued advocacy and work in helping increase the flow of humanitarian aid trucks across the Rafah border through safe and unhindered access.
We look forward to continuing working with and supporting WFP in this emergency to provide the assistance needed to the most vulnerable in West Bank and Gaza through life-saving aid.
As Secretary of State Blinken has said, much more needs to be done to protect civilians and make sure humanitarian assistance reaches them. Far too many Palestinians have been killed, and we want to do everything possible to prevent harm to civilians and to maximize the assistance that gets to them.
Mr. President, please allow me to close with a quote from Fred Rogers. For those of you who don’t know, Fred Rogers was a television personality from my youth who taught an entire generation of Americans that it was important not just to “be good” but also to “do good.”
Mr. Rogers said, “We live in a world where we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘it’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
I agree with Mr. Rogers. Humanitarians around the world, including the teams here at WFP, live that sentiment every day. They see the needs in the world and respond, often at great risk to themselves and their families.
Mr. AbdulJaber, thank you and your team for the work that you do every day. We will continue to support you. We are proud of you. And more importantly, the world need you and people like you. You are our heroes.
Thank you, Mr. President.