Transcript: Scott Anderson, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Gaza, on “Face the Nation”, June 2, 2024

The following is a transcript of an interview with Scott Anderson, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Gaza, on “Face the Nation” that aired on June 2, 2024.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Scott Anderson joins us. He is the director of the UN's refugee efforts in Gaza. UNRWA is the largest aid organization for Palestinian refugees and he joins us now from Amman, Jordan. Scott, I know you served in the US Army and deployed twice to Afghanistan. How does that compare to what you saw in Gaza? Sorry, I can't hear Scott right now.

DIRECTOR OF UNRWA AFFAIRS GAZA, SCOTT ANDERSON: Sorry, I was going to say that Gaza is much worse, Margaret, than Afghanistan. I mean, wherever you go, the scale of destruction defies description and it looks like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie. In most places you see 90 to 100% destruction, while the infrastructure suffers much worse. So I have never seen anything in Afghanistan like what we are seeing now in Gaza.

MARGARET BRENNAN: USAID chief Sam Power-Samantha Power said conditions in Gaza are worse now than ever before. She said this was due to Israeli military operations and closed border crossings. What exactly is the humanitarian situation like at the moment?

ANDERSON: So what you have is 2.2 million people who have all been displaced at least once. Most have been displaced several times. Before the operation, more than a million people had again been displaced in Rafah to Khan Younis, to Deir al-Balah. And what they miss are actually only basic needs that we all expect. They need food, they need access to water, they need access to showers, access to toilets, access to medical care. And unfortunately, due to a variety of factors, we are not able to import everything that is needed and ensure that everyone has the basic necessities to get through every day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Nineteen different aid organizations released a letter this week saying Palestinians are surviving on less than 3% of their daily water needs. Hepatitis spreads. Medical evacuations have been halted. Nearly every hospital has received evacuation orders. The Pentagon said it has suspended food airdrops due to the Israeli military action and as we know the pier is not actually in use. Who exactly is hindering delivery?

ANDERSON: I mean, I think it's a variety of things, not just one person that you can point to. Most of our aid comes through Kerem Shalom. It all comes through Egypt, starts in Port Said, goes through Sinai to El-Arish and finally ends up in Kerem Shalom, where it is brought in and through us to the Palestinian side and then on for the final final distribution within Gaza. . There are a lot of steps that have to go perfectly for that to all work, and unfortunately not everything went well. For a while, Egypt did not send any trucks. Where we had 80,000 tons of aid in the country that we had no access to. And we have been continuously catching up on the aid situation since October. Not everyone has a tent that needs one, so there are still people sleeping outside as we are eight months into the conflict. And you have rightly highlighted our main concern on this issue, which is access to clean drinking water. You know, without that, in addition to hepatitis, you also have things like cholera and other diseases that are common. We could see an outbreak happening very soon and it is something that concerns us. And besides, it's getting hot, you know, it's summer, you're basically in a desert. And if people don't have access to clean drinking water, that is a problem for dehydration, but also for diseases.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you're at the UN, so you can't talk about politics and policy, but President Biden did give this speech on Friday about a proposed ceasefire and hostage agreement. He said 600 aid trucks would enter Gaza a day, carrying supplies with shelter and the like. Who is going to do all that distribution?

ANDERSON: I mean, because of the size, it would be the entire international humanitarian community. I mean, currently UNRWA feeds just over half the population. We feed about 1.3 to 1.4 million people every day, but that's us, along with the rest of the UN and all our partners, and I would say we very much welcome a ceasefire. It's time for the hostages to go home to their families. It's time for more aid to come in and then hopefully we can start rebuilding Gaza.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Scott Anderson, thank you for telling us what you're seeing and experiencing locally. We will be right back.

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