Humanity taking back seat to politics in Gaza – UN humanitarian chief

30 April 2009
Scenes from Gaza

Helping Gaza’s most vulnerable must be a top priority, the United Nations humanitarian chief urged today, lamenting that basic human needs are not being met and that reconstruction is stalled, nearly four months after the end of hostilities there.

In an opinion piece published today in the European Voice (Brussels), John Holmes noted that while donors have pledged money, the flow of goods is “wholly inadequate and reconstruction is almost impossible.”

Roughly 75 per cent of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents require assistance, but even the most essential imports are subject to intense limitations by Israeli authorities, he pointed out.

“In Gaza, humanity has taken a back seat to politics. A measly trickle of items has become the most the world can offer civilians trapped by a political stalemate,” wrote Mr. Holmes, who serves as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

“While Israel has primary responsibility for this terrible crisis of human dignity, Hamas is also to blame because of the indiscriminate and pointless rocket attacks it committed and allowed for so long,” he added.

Israel conducted a three-week military offensive in Gaza beginning on 27 December with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks by Hamas and other groups. The violence killed at least 1,300 Palestinians and wounded some 5,300, and reduced homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces to rubble.

Mr. Holmes stressed the need to reopen border crossings to all essential humanitarian and reconstruction goods. In addition, the relief workers currently applying for authorisation to work in Gaza must be recognised and respected by Hamas and Israel as independent and autonomous actors.

“Protection, food, water, healthcare and shelter are basic human needs, not bargaining chips,” he stated. “That fact must be recognised by all parties responsible for the immense suffering in Gaza.”


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