Protests outside Global Food Security Summit in London over Gaza war

Protests outside Global Food Security Summit in London over Gaza war
2 min read
20 November, 2023
The protest coincided with the publication of an open letter written to Rishi Sunak by Medical Aid for Palestinians and signed by 12 heads of charities calling for an end to Israel's bombardment of Gaza and the implementation of a ceasefire.
Protesters gathered outside Lancaster House in London calling for the UK government to back a ceasefire in Gaza [Oliver Mizzi/TNA]

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) held a protest on Monday outside the Global Food Security Summit organised by the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office in London's Lancaster House as Gaza suffers an acute shortage of food and water.

The small group of protesters, holding empty paper plates reading "Feed Gaza, Ceasefire Now", are calling for an end to Israel's siege and bombardment of the Gaza Strip, whilst highlighting the food and clean water insecurity experienced by the enclave's 2.2 million population.

Messages on the plates read: "Fill this plate", "convoys not cannons", and "2.2 million people food insecure in Gaza".

MAP CEO Melanie Ward, who was at the protest, told The New Arab that the aim of the demonstration was to tell participants they cannot "ignore the fact that 2.2 million people in Gaza are at risk of starvation because Israel is not allowing food in to [Gaza]".

Doctors in northern Gaza were seeing signs of acute malnutrition among children, she added.

Ward called the UK government response "inadequate", pointing out that the government "is the custodian of United Nations Security Council Resolution number 2417 which condemns starvation as a weapon of war and says it mustn't be allowed".

"That is in fact what is happening in Gaza right now and it has to stop," she added.

Several high-profile UK government representatives were present inside the building, including UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who, alongside Minister for Development Andrew Mitchell, opened the summit. Newly appointed Foreign Secretary David Cameron is due to close the summit later today.

Included at the summit were representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Food Programme, and the World Health Organisation.

Oxfam's CEO Danny Sriskandarjah, whilst not formally addressing the summit, is also present, and is expected to call on the government to condemn Israel's actions in Gaza.

Richard Standforth, Senior Policy Advisor at Oxfam GB, told The New Arab: "We're calling for the UK government to condemn the violence, to condemn the lack of access into Gaza and to press the Israeli government to allow food, fuel, water and supplies into Gaza. This is our most urgent call."

It has become increasingly difficult for Oxfam to communicate with colleagues in Gaza due to the rolling internet and telecoms blackouts, he said.

"Sometimes we don't know whether they're alive or dead," he added.

When they do get through to the Gaza-based colleagues they tell "increasingly desperate stories" about the "massively significant reduction in supplies" in the enclave.

Last week one worker said that they had to distribute one block of cheese between 10 families.

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MAP Advocacy and Research Officer Hallah Keir told The New Arab that 19 of the agency's Gaza-based staff were attempting to meet the needs of the territory under "horrific circumstances" while also suffering displacement, personal loss, and food insecurity themselves.

One kitchen that is serving hot meals to Gaza's population "has run out of fuel, so they're using wood to cook hot meals for communities", Keir said. She added that the kitchen was operating "under constant bombardment".

A 20th MAP staff member is stuck in Egypt, unable to cross the Rafah border into Gaza. 

The protest follows the publication of an open letter written by MAP to Rishi Sunak, urging the government to "demand an immediate ceasefire, an end to Israel's ongoing siege, and the urgent entry of food, fuel, water and other vital aid".

It was signed by the heads of 12 charities, including Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, and the Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu).

International pressure on the Israeli government to implement a ceasefire in its war on Gaza is growing steadily, with French President Emmanuel Macron telling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday of "the importance of achieving an immediate humanitarian truce leading to a ceasefire".

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi accused Israel of committing "war crimes" in Gaza, adding that Israel's action was a "blatant aggression, the victims of which are innocent Palestinians".

Since Hamas' 7 October attack on southern Israel, which saw 1,200 Israelis killed and 240 hostages taken, Israel has killed 13,000 Palestinians in Gaza, including 5,500 children.

A further 30,000 people have been injured in the Israeli onslaught on Gaza, according to territory's media office.