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“To those speaking out for the people of Gaza – thank you for not looking the other way”: Dr Sophie Scamps

Introduction by Croakey: Leaders of United Nations agencies, including the World Health Organization, have issued a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and for Israel and the world’s leaders to “prevent an even worse catastrophe from happening”.

Speaking to media on 21 February, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the health and humanitarian situation in Gaza is inhumane and continues to deteriorate.

“Gaza has become a death zone,” he said. “We note with apprehension that the World Food Programme cannot get into northern Gaza with supplies.

“What type of world do we live when people cannot get food and water, or when people who cannot even walk are not able to receive care? What type of world do we live in when health workers are at risk of being bombed as they carry out their lifesaving work?”

Meanwhile, Dr Sophie Scamps, who was a GP with public health qualifications before becoming Independent Federal MP for Mackellar, writes below about why she is calling strongly for a ceasefire in Gaza and urging the Australian Government to immediately resume financial support for the United Nations agency, UNRWA.

Beneath her article are links to recent updates from the WHO, UNICEF and other agencies and aid organisations.


Sophie Scamps writes:

In recent months I have received an enormous amount of correspondence from my electorate about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza – far more than for any other issue since I was elected.

The nearly 1,000 emails from my constituents in the Sydney Northern Beaches seat of Mackellar express deep distress at the ongoing and deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Gaza and horror as the death toll steadily rises, thousand upon thousand.

The barbaric attacks on the people of Israel of 7 October shocked and horrified my electorate. Our hearts broke for the affected families and the people of Israel. The earnest hope and call still is for all hostages to be released and reunited with their families.

But the military action in Gaza, which followed this attack on Israel, is now in its fifth month. Nightly, we see footage of families living in intolerable conditions, in tents or living among the rubble of their former homes. Millions of people have been displaced as they seek to escape the bombardment. Food and clean water are scarce. Hospitals are barely functioning. And these people are the lucky ones.

The death toll is approaching 30,000. Nearly 70,000 people have been wounded. We see people digging amongst the rubble to find their loved ones crushed below.

A report by the World Health Organization found the situation is particularly extreme in the Northern Gaza Strip, which has been almost completely cut off from aid for weeks.

Nutrition screenings conducted at shelters and health centres in the north found that 15.6 percent – or one in six children under two years of age – are acutely malnourished. And that was based on data from late January.

These people, these children, who are not Hamas, have been dehumanised.

I have used my position as a parliamentarian to urge our Government to use our country’s respected voice to call unambiguously and strongly for a ceasefire, to call for the killing of civilians and children to stop and to call for Israel to ensure that adequate levels of aid reach the people of Gaza to prevent the real risk of more people dying every day from starvation, dehydration and exposure.

I worry how often such calls for a ceasefire or criticism of Israel’s military actions are misconstrued or mis-labelled as attacks on Jewish people. They are not. It is humanitarianism, not antisemitism. These calls come from the heart, not from hatred, and no government should be above being held to account.

It is possible to hold two truths in your heart at the same time; in this case, a deep concern for the people, and the plight, of Israel – and a desperation to see the killing of innocent people and children in Gaza stopped immediately.

I understand the particular desperation among my medical colleagues, for whom the sanctity of life is their profession. We know how these conditions will impact both the immediate and long term health and wellbeing of the women and children caught up in this. As doctors, as a civilised society, we cannot look the other way.

Yet doctors along with lawyers, actors and journalists have been hounded online, and complaints made to professional bodies simply for expressing humanitarian concern for the people of Gaza.

As our Prime Minister has said, the way Israel defends itself matters.

The preliminary ruling of the International Court of Justice, that there is a plausible case of genocide for Israel to answer, is extremely grave.

I was grateful to see Australia’s support for the critical role the International Court of Justice plays in upholding international humanitarian law. I also welcomed our vote last December in the UN General Assembly calling for a humanitarian ceasefire and an immediate release of hostages.

I also urge our Government immediately to resume financial support for UNRWA as it is the only organisation that is capable of delivering aid to the people of Gaza.

But so much more needs to be done and urgently, particularly as we learn that thousands more are at risk of being killed in Rafah, where hundreds of thousands have crammed into this small area as the only supposed remaining safe place in Gaza.

As human rights lawyer, Sarah Schwartz describes, Jewish people grew up hearing stories from relatives who survived the Holocaust of how too many looked the other way.

To those speaking out for the people of Gaza – thank you for not looking the other way.


Further updates

Read: Humanitarian leaders unite in urgent plea for Gaza Gaza: MSF strongly condemns Israeli attack on MSF shelter which kills two and injures six
Statement by Principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee: Civilians in Gaza in extreme peril while the world watches on
UN Food Agency pauses deliveries to the North of Gaza Israeli forces fired on food convoy in Gaza, UN documents and satellite analysis reveals


Previously at Croakey