In Gaza, UN resumes full aid operations interrupted by factional fighting

8 February 2007

The United Nations agency that tends to Palestinian refugees has resumed full operation of its humanitarian activities in Gaza after they had been interrupted by recent inter-factional fighting.

The closing of UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) installations and facilities, including its headquarters and field offices, 83 schools and a food distribution centre, had been a last resort, but the situation had simply become too dangerous for its staff and for the thousands of children in its schools. Full services were restored on Tuesday.

In a meeting with head teachers from the worst-affected schools in Gaza City,

UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza John Ging delivered a clear message of reassurance of the agency’s continued commitment to deliver humanitarian services in spite of the new and dangerous challenges.

“We have to make up the time these children lost in school days, and I assure the wider refugee population in Gaza that through the bravery and dedication of our staff,

UNRWA will continue to deliver services as long as it is possible to ensure a measure of safety for our staff,” he said.

“Our services are vital: 860,000 refugees depend on our food assistance, 1 million depend on our health services and we have 195,000 children in our schools. We are all hoping that the political leaders meeting in Mecca will have the courage and wisdom to find solutions to avoid a return to the violence of the past days,” he added, referring to a summit meeting between the Fatah and Hamas factions in Islam’s holiest city.

Over the past two months Mr. Ging and other UN officials have repeatedly warned that the armed clashes between the rival Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, in which dozens of people are reported to have been killed or wounded, were endangering UN humanitarian operations.

UNRWA, created in 1949 to care for Palestinian refugees after the foundation of Israel, now provides education, health and humanitarian aid to over 4 million people throughout the Middle East.