The Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies held a public lecture on 20 May 2024, entitled "On the Ground in Gaza: Destruction of Humanitarian Capacities". The lecture was delivered by Rasha Abushaban, a human rights activist working in the field of human rights and humanitarian action in the Gaza Strip for the past 15 years. The session was moderated by Mona Hedaya, a researcher at the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies.

Ms Abushaban began the lecture by delivering a comprehensive overview of the humanitarian situation in Gaza prior to the outbreak of the 2023/2024 war. She highlighted the devastating impact of previous conflicts on Gaza's infrastructure and vital sectors, such as education, health, water and sanitation, and communications. She detailed the extensive killing and destruction caused by the Israeli authorities in Gaza since the blockade began in 2007, setting a grim backdrop for the current crisis.

Moving to the aftermath of the ongoing war, Rasha identified and analysed the systematic practices of the occupation's forces, including the killing and forced displacement of civilians, and the deliberate destruction of infrastructure. Within the context of explaining the manifestations of the destruction of humanitarian capabilities in Gaza and the challenges facing the humanitarian sector, her account painted a harrowing picture of the daily suffering faced by the repeatedly displaced population due to the ongoing assault. This, she argued, is a clear attempt to push Gaza's residents to "flee" the region entirely.

Ms Abushaban also highlighted the critical shortage of essential materials that continues to impact the lives of the displaced and threatens to halt vital services. The disruption of communications, in particular, hampers the movement of the displaced, the coordination of humanitarian efforts, and the timely reporting of injuries during shelling.

The lecture further underscored the widespread and systematic destruction of infrastructure in sectors such as health, education, water and sanitation, and electricity, aimed at preventing civilians from returning to their homes after the war. She noted that the targeting of hospitals has severely weakened the healthcare system, with only 10 standing hospitals out of 32 partially operational, intensifying the challenges faced by medical teams in providing lifesaving care.

Furthermore, she explained how the destruction of water and sanitation lines has led to the spread of epidemics such as hepatitis, amid a severe shortage of health centres. She also pointed out the targeting of students, teachers, and educational institutions, with at least 5479 students, 261 teachers, and 95 university professors amongst the victims, and approximately 80% of schools completely damaged.

Ms Abushaban focused on the immense challenges faced by relief organisations in delivering humanitarian aid, which forces them to resort to risky methods like air drops, which have killed at least 18 people. The targeting of humanitarian workers has also claimed the lives of 188 UNRWA staff and four workers from other international organisations, with at least eight airstrikes on aid convoys, leading to around 250 humanitarian worker fatalities.

The lecture was followed by a Q&A session that addressed the lessons learned to improve the work of humanitarian organisations in the Gaza Strip. The discussion emphasised leveraging and enhancing existing systems in Gaza and boosting the involvement of civil society organisations, which possess a deeper understanding of the local context and experience in providing effective responses.