Even before the current wave of violence, conditions in Gaza were awful.
Blockaded since 2007, it’s one of the most densely populated places on Earth. More than two million people – half of them children – are living on a thin strip of land just 25 miles long and five miles wide.
For years, it was a place I’d only read about. I’m a lifelong humanitarian and I’ve been to many war zones, but visiting Gaza and seeing it for myself was profoundly shocking – people living without enough clean water, kids in overcrowded classrooms and poverty everywhere.
The children I spoke to had no hope for their futures. Yet right now the situation is many, many times worse. The sickening atrocities committed in Israel two weeks ago have triggered a chain reaction of violence that is devastating an already broken population.
Thousands have been killed and one million have fled their homes. The blockade and the bombing mean there is almost no fuel or electricity, scarcely enough food and nowhere near enough clean water.
It was a crisis before, now it’s a catastrophe. As a humanitarian, I can’t emphasise enough that civilians must be off-limits in warfare.
My organisation, Humanity & Inclusion UK, has long campaigned against the use of large explosive weapons such as rockets and bombs in densely populated areas.
We know from years of tragic experience that the bombing of cities always causes indiscriminate harm to civilians, leaving death, injury and devastation. But, for now, our focus is on immediate relief.
My brave colleagues in Gaza are going from shelter to shelter providing relief kits, medical items, crutches and wheelchairs for injured civilians.
We also have experts in rehabilitation for injured people, support for those suffering psychological trauma and teams ready to deliver emergency education about the risks from explosive ordnance.
We’ve launched an urgent appeal to the British public for funds to support our vital work. However, right now our efforts are severely restricted by the ongoing fighting.
That’s why we’re joining hundreds of humanitarian organisations around the world in calling for an immediate ceasefire. If aid isn’t allowed to get in, the scale of suffering and the numbers of people who will die will be unimaginable.