Aid agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to distribute urgent emergency relief as the military attacks intensify in the densely populated Gaza Strip home to 1.5 million Palestinians.
Thirteen days into the Gaza conflict aid agencies Islamic Relief and CAFOD are warning that the humanitarian crisis is deepening hour by hour.
Geoff O’Donoghue, CAFOD’s Director of International Division, says a three-hour occasional halt to military activities is insufficient to allow meaningful movements of aid to reach those in need.
“Time is of the essence. It is imperative that a secure humanitarian corridor is established within the next 24 to 48 hours to allow immediate delivery of essential supplies and skilled personnel to help deal with this humanitarian crisis.”
“While this would allow some short-term relief, it is no substitute for a permanent ceasefire, an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and rocket attacks into Israel,” he said.
According to reports from aid workers in Gaza 70 percent of people no longer have running water in their homes. This is as a result of electricity shortages and the damage caused to the water systems. There are also severe food shortages with people risking their lives to queue for up to ten hours on the streets for bread.
Mr O’Donoghue also warned of impending health issues.
“As essential food, water, health and sanitation services collapse or are destroyed it is inevitable that disease will add to the mounting list of civilian casualties caused by the military action,” he said.
Hospitals are now entirely reliant on generators dependent on scarce fuel supplies, and with no fuel entering Gaza many life-saving machines are unable to run.
Hatem Shurrab an aid worker with IR said, “The people of Gaza have reached breaking point and it’s hard to describe in words how desperate people are. We believe 70 percent of the population are without water and electricity and food is running out. Our aid efforts have been severely restricted due to the level of violence.”
IR’s aid team on the ground report that hospitals are running out of supplies of medication. Hospitals are also facing shortages of beds and medical equipment and staff report that some operations have had to take place without the use of anaesthetic. Only one quarter of health staff are working because of restrictions on movement. Vaccination programmes have stopped, heightening the risk of disease, especially amongst children.
Palestinian medical sources say that over 680 Palestinians have been killed since the conflict started, many of them women and children and many thousands injured. Aid workers say that around 30 percent of those who have been killed or injured are children.
“People in Gaza are exhausted and traumatised, and are in desperate need for an end to this nightmare. We need the bombs to stop so we can get aid out to the most vulnerable people whose suffering is increasing day by day’’ said Shurrab.
For more information please contact:
Helen Mould (Islamic Relief) on (00 44) 121 622 0719 or mobile: (00 44) 7855 499 645
Nana Anto-Awuakye (CAFOD) on (00 44) 207 095-5560 or mobile: (00 44)7799 477 541