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Int'l Organizations Express Concern Over Developments in Gaza

2006-07-09

Several international organizations working in the Gaza Strip expressed their concern over the recent developments in Gaza, and the ongoing Israeli attacks that have left dozens of Palestinians dead and injured.

In a statement received on Saturday, several United Nations agencies explained that these developments have led to the death of many innocent civilians, and brought tragedies to hundreds of thousands, causing long-term damages to the Palestinian society.

The statement also considered that the conditions in Gaza have become very worrying, as poverty rates shot to nearly 80 percent, while unemployment reached 40 percent. These conditions are also eligible to deteriorate further unless urgent and immediate steps are taken.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is working with 980 thousand Palestinian refugees, said that the Gaza Strip is standing on the verge of a humanitarian disaster with regards to public health.

UNRWA further mentioned that the bombing of Gaza‘s only power station in June 28 has deprived the entire population of Gaza of electricity for a period of 12-18 hours each day, pointing out that this power shortage has affected water and sewage pumps - consequently causing water shortages and sewage overflows in some areas throughout the Strip. The international agency added that the restrictions on the passage of humanitarian aid through Karni crossing, east of Gaza City, has led to the accumulation of delay bills for around 230 trucks, reaching an astonishing half a million USD in total.

On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the public health sector in Gaza is facing an unprecedented disaster, as the current fuel storage for hospitals and clinics that powers the backup generators is estimated to hold for a period of less than two weeks.

WHO noted that this situations is exacerbated by the fact that 23 percent of the basic medical supplies are about to run out from the medical centers, in addition to the continuous ban of treatment for Gaza‘s patients inside Israel. According to the organization, about 500 to 700 patients were used to be transferred to Israel for treatment every month from Gaza before the Israeli offensive.

In the meantime, the World Food Program (WFP) estimated that 70 percent of Gaza‘s population was not able to supply their needs of food in June, and that the Israeli military escalation has led to a reduction in the production of wheat mills, bakeries and food factories, due to the electricity cut.

In addition, the inability to store easily-spoiled food in home refrigerators due to electricity shortage has affected many households, which became unable to store food stuffs. This is coupled by the decrease of basic food supplies in markets, such as sugar, dairy products and baby milk.

WFP said that it is already offering emergency food assistance for about 160 thousand Palestinians who are suffering the worst cases of food insecurity in the Gaza Strip.

The UN agencies‘ statement asserted that their humanitarian work depends on keeping the border crossings between Gaza and Israel open in order to allow food consignments and relief crews to cross into the Strip.

On the psychological level, the United Nations Children‘s Fund (UNICEF) pointed out that children in Gaza live in a constant atmosphere charged with violence and danger to an exceptional way.

UNICEF also said that the constant fighting has caused psychological damages to children, and caregivers reveal that an increase of 15-20 percent was seen in the symptoms of nocturnal enuresis, due to Israeli sonic booms and artillery bombardment.

The UN organization confirmed that it is in need of constant supplies of fuel and electricity in order to be able to store medicines and vaccines needed by the children, in light of the shortage of water and sewage services.

Furthermore, the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator (UNSCO) noted that the rise in the number of Palestinian civilian deaths and injuries, as well as the damages done to properties and infrastructure are in violation of the international law, which demands distinguishing between civilians and combatants at all times.

UNSCO demanded the continuous opening of Karni crossing, which is the only commercial crossing between Gaza and Israel, in order to ensure a steady flow of humanitarian assistance and fuel, and to respond to any emergency humanitarian needs.

The United Nations‘ Office also called to re-open Rafah border crossing and allow the trapped Palestinian passengers to enter Gaza, especially those with health issues. It also reaffirmed that the United Nations‘ efforts to offer humanitarian relief have been facing obstacles and that they would not be enough to put an end to the suffering.

Source: The International Press Center (IPC) is one of the State Information Service’s (SIS) in Palestine.


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