A group of nearly 40 United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) today called for an end to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has now been in force for two years and has left the population of 1.5 million almost totally dependent on international aid.
“We call for free and uninhibited access for all humanitarian assistance in accordance with the international agreements and in accordance with universally recognised international human rights and humanitarian law standards,” they said in a joint statement issued in Jerusalem to mark the second anniversary of the blockade.
While the “indiscriminate” sanctions are affecting the entire population of Gaza, they said, women, children and the elderly are the first victims.
The group called for a return to normalized trade, stating that the “suffocation” of Gaza’s economy has led to unprecedented unemployment and poverty rates and almost total aid dependency.
“While Gazans are being kept alive through humanitarian aid, ordinary civilians have lost all quality of life as they fight to survive,” they said.
In addition, “the consequences of Israel’s recent military operation remain widespread as early recovery materials have been prevented from entering Gaza. Thousands of people are living with holes in their walls, broken windows and no running water,” stated the group.
Last week the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the entry of essential goods and services, including materials for reconstruction, spare parts for water and sanitation projects, as well as industrial and agricultural materials remain either restricted or banned outright.
Maxwell Gaylard, the top UN humanitarian official in the occupied Palestinian territory, reported in May that the fighting from December 2008 to January 2009 had destroyed some 4,000 homes and damaged another 40,000. While donors have pledged billions of dollars for Gaza’s reconstruction, work cannot begin because of the blockade.
The group warned that the ongoing blockade is creating “an atmosphere of deprivation in Gaza that can only deepen the sense of hopelessness and despair among people,” and stated that allowing human development and prosperity to take hold is an essential first step towards the establishment of lasting peace.
Among those adding their voice to the statement issued today is the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the NGOs Oxfam International and CARE.