February 24, 2024

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Sigrid Kak, the “Iron Lady” coordinating humanitarian aid in Gaza

Sigrid Kak, the “Iron Lady” coordinating humanitarian aid in Gaza

Appointed by the United Nations Security Council at the end of December, former Dutch minister Sigrid Kok will take office this Monday, January 8. This is not his first assignment for the UN.

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Israeli media accuse him of being hostile to the Jewish state. Sigrid Kak, 62, was married to former Palestinian minister Yasser Arafat in the 1990s. In a 1996 interview, he blamed Benjamin Netanyahu, who was already prime minister at the time. racism “,” Talkative “and” Enemy of peace ».

But the UN rejects this criticism. The organization announced on Tuesday, December 26, its appointment to the post of Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance and Reconstruction in Gaza. Security Council Resolution on Assistance to the Palestinian Territory Bombed and besieged by Israel. There will also be a Sigrid Cock laying task. UN calls for speeding up delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza by states other than parties to the conflict Establishes mechanism. », the spokesperson of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted in a press release.

Many missions in the Middle East

A graduate of Oxford, the National School of Administration and the American University in Cairo, Sigrid Kak began working for the United Nations in 1994. Administrative positions in several organizations, such as the International Organization for Migration, UNICEF, and later UNRWA, helped. Palestinian refugees. Sigrid Cog then expands operations in the region. In 2013, he was appointed head of the Mission to Prohibit Chemical Weapons in Syria. In Damascus, she was nicknamed the Dutch “Iron Lady”. Two years later, he became the UN's Special Coordinator for Lebanon in the midst of the Syrian refugee crisis.

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Returning to the Netherlands in 2017, he enjoyed a meteoric political rise. In 2020, he was elected leader of the social liberal party D66 and held ministerial posts. Since 2022, Sigrid Kok has been Deputy Prime Minister for Finance before announcing her resignation to devote herself to her new role. ” I think it is very important to choose a senior official with extensive experience in the United Nations, who speaks Arabic and is used to dealing with problems in this region, to improve the obviously unacceptable humanitarian situation in Gaza. », Richard Makepeace, a member of the British NGO Medical Aid for Palestinians, was interviewed by RFI.

Flexibility required

The conflict between the Jewish state and the Palestinian Authority, sparked after a bloody Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, has forced 1.9 million people from their homes in the Gaza Strip, 85% of the population, the UN said. Famine threatens the region and most hospitals are out of service. Already after more than 16 years of Israeli siege, the enclave, which has been under a total siege by Israel since October 9, has received insufficient international aid. ” Sending more medical supplies, water, food, fuel and supplies to Gaza is one thing. But getting across the border to those who need that help is another matter. Making humanitarian work less risky will require greater flexibility in working with Israeli forces », warns Richard Magpies.

Ask for moreGaza, a humanitarian disaster

Mission Impossible? Olivier Roudeau, head of operations at the NGO Premier Urgence International, is however wary of Sigrid Coq's ability to get things done quickly. ” In the context of this appointment, I think creating change, creating a space for more listening to humanitarian issues, is important today in the Gaza Strip. he says into RFI's microphone. But I still doubt that a single person will succeed in finding all the solutions to the obstacles we face. »

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Three months into the war, ground fighting between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants, as well as devastating Israeli aerial bombardments, show no sign of letting up. According to the Hamas Health Ministry, Israeli military retaliatory operations in Gaza killed 20,915 people, mostly women, adolescents and children, as well as wounded 54,918.

(and with (AFP)