Greater access for goods and people into Gaza a must, stresses UN

Greater access for goods and people into Gaza a must, stresses UN

Humanitarian aid for Gaza at the Rafah border gate
The overall levels of humanitarian assistance allowed into Gaza remain below what is urgently required, the United Nations reports, adding that lengthy clearance procedures for aid workers are also hampering vital relief efforts.

A total of 671 truckloads of goods – including 121 from humanitarian agencies – were allowed entry into Gaza this past week, according to an update from the office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory.

This is less than the 1,080 trucks that were let in the week before, it notes, adding that items banned by the Israeli authorities over the past week included jam, biscuits and tomato paste.

In addition, no petrol or diesel was allowed entry into Gaza last week via Israel, and approximately 90 per cent of Gaza’s population suffers from intermittent power supply, with power cuts of between four and five hours daily.

The Humanitarian Coordinator’s office also notes that Israeli clearance procedures for access into Gaza by international staff from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) continue to be very lengthy, thereby hindering the work of aid groups.

While it has been about two months since the end of the Israeli military offensive in Gaza, the office reports that rocket fire by Palestinian militants into Israel and air strikes on Gaza by Israeli forces continues.

At least 1,300 Palestinians were killed and some 5,300 were injured in the three-week offensive launched by Israel in late 2008 with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks by Hamas and other groups. The heavy bombardment and fighting also reduced homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces to rubble.

A UN Development Programme (UNDP) report on the aftermath of the Israeli military operations finds that 65 per cent of Gazans live below the income poverty line and 37 per cent live in extreme poverty.

The report adds that 60 per cent of the unemployed are extremely poor – compared to 56 per cent before the recent Gaza conflict.

“Most households in the Gaza Strip have suffered from limited access to basics such as food, water, electricity, sanitation and money, but their highest need now is personal security,” the agency notes.