"As a result of the blockade and collapse of the
economy, there is little money to buy food and limited food to buy. Food prices
are rising and wheat flour, baby milk and cooking oil are increasingly scarce,"
the report said.
JERUSALEM, 6 March 2008 (IRIN) - The
humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is "man-made" and worse than it has
ever been since the Israeli occupation in 1967, a coalition of British
organisations said in a new report released on 6 March, urging better regional
cooperation and saying Hamas can no longer be ignored.
A Humanitarian Implosion, the 16-page report
details the various effects the Israeli-imposed blockade has had in the last
nine months since the Hamas takeover of the enclave, and concluded that all
aspects of life have been negatively affected, including healthcare, employment
The agencies, such as CARE, Amnesty, Christian Aid, and Oxfam, quoted UN
statistics showing that aid dependency has risen significantly.
While in 2006 some 60 percent of Gazans needed food aid, in 2008 that number
rose to 80 percent, and is expected to increase.
In 1999, before the second `intifada' (Palestinian uprising against Israel),
UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian affairs, provided food to some 16,000
families in the enclave, while now it and the World Food Programme distribute
aid to over 1.1 million people.
The report said Gaza's economy has collapsed as a "majority of private
businesses have shut down and 95 percent of Gaza's industrial operations are
suspended." The restrictions on imports and exports were also the cause of
failings in the agricultural sector.
The Gaza Strip suffers from power outages due to the Israeli air strike on the
power plant in 2006 and the restrictions on fuel imports, affecting the plant's
productivity and vital institutions like hospitals, which lack 60-70 percent of
their diesel needs for generators. Power outages are also affecting the water
supply to about 30 percent of Gaza's residents. About 40-50 million litres of
sewage are pumped into the sea daily for the same reason.
The agencies also noted a drop in the percentage of patients allowed out of the
Strip for medical treatment, adding that over 20 people have died since June
2007 as a result.
In a response issued to IRIN, the Israeli Ministry of Defense said some 90
percent of patients are able to leave for treatment, and Israel allows in all
medication and other humanitarian supplies needed in spite of Palestinian rocket
fire targeting crossing points. It insisted the amount of fuel it lets in is
enough for humanitarian purposes, blamed Hamas for internal distribution
problems and noted that it continues to supply electricity to Gaza.
"Israel has the right and duty to defend itself and its people," Neil Durkin of
Amnesty International in London told IRIN, condemning rocket fire at Israeli
towns. However, security concerns could not explain bans on basic imports or
patient movement, he said.
The report concluded that the violence on all sides should cease, and Israel
should end its power and fuel cuts to Gaza and open the borders. In the meantime
Israel's definition of humanitarian aid should be extended to include items like
cement and spare parts.
"We ask that the UK government and EU [European Union] put pressure on the
government of Israel to ensure that emergency assistance essential to fulfilling
fundamental human rights is never used as a bargaining tool to further political
goals," the report said.
Finally, the groups called for an inclusive policy that would mean dialogue with
Hamas, which rules Gaza but is shunned by the Palestinian Authority in the West
Bank, Israel and the West.
The above article comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2008
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