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After three years of serving as the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths has announced his intention to step down in June due to ill health. Griffiths, who has been a key figure in advocating for aid to the Gaza Strip and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, expressed his gratitude to his colleagues at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and to all partners and supporters for their efforts in championing the cause of people in crises. He has been actively involved in pressing for Israel to allow humanitarian assistance into Gaza, which has been severely impacted by a more than five-month military assault and aid supply restrictions.

NGOs and rights organisations have accused Israel of deliberately blocking aid to Gaza, as warnings of famine in the besieged strip have escalated. Despite denials from Israel, Griffiths has voiced concerns over the situation and warned against potential casualties in the event of an Israeli assault on the city of Rafah, where 1.5 million Palestinians have sought refuge. Griffiths has emphasized the urgent need to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, particularly in light of recent attacks and the ongoing suffering of the population.

In addition to his focus on Gaza, Griffiths has raised alarms about other humanitarian crises around the world, including the risk of catastrophic hunger for nearly five million people in Sudan in the coming months. However, his work has not been without criticism, particularly following a visit to Myanmar last August where civil society groups accused him of failing to make substantial progress on humanitarian assistance and providing legitimacy to military coup leaders who had “weaponized aid”. Despite these challenges, Griffiths has continued to advocate for improved access to humanitarian relief in Myanmar and other conflict-affected regions.

Griffiths’ past experience as the UN special envoy for Yemen and his advisory roles on Syria have provided him with valuable insights and expertise in navigating complex humanitarian challenges. His tenure as the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs has seen him prioritize addressing crises in various regions and advocating for the needs of vulnerable populations. As he prepares to step down in June, the impact of his work will be remembered through his efforts to bring attention to pressing humanitarian issues and mobilize support for those affected by conflict and crisis.

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