Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Israel must open crossings to Gaza to counter misery and extremism – UN official.UN NEWS CENTER.

Aid access, no interference crucial for Gaza recovery, says top UN official
[John Holmes]

John Holmes
2 February 2009 – The top United Nations humanitarian official said today that the success of relief operations in Gaza – the site of Israel’s recent three-week military offensive – hinges on three factors: access for aid agencies, a durable ceasefire and no political interference from any party.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes launched a $613 million flash appeal to help with Gaza’s post-conflict recovery needs for the area’s 1.4 million residents.

“We are here today not to debate the rights and wrongs but to highlight the needs arising from the recent events in Gaza and to request urgent funds to allow the UN and partners to restore basic social services such as water, health and education, provide food, support emergency repairs of critical infrastructure, and begin to tackle psychological and protection concerns,” he said in Geneva.

The funds are intended to cover needs for the next nine months and will be used for 106 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and 82 UN projects, based on a two-week assessment.

Israel’s three-week military offensive in the Gaza Strip killed some 1,300 Palestinians, injured more than 5,300, 34 per cent of them children, and caused widespread damage and destruction. Some 21,000 homes were either destroyed or damaged, and at the height of the conflict, more than 50,000 people were seeking refuge in facilities of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Mr. Holmes said the success of the relief operations depends on the sustainability of the ceasefire, as well as access of supplies, commercial goods, aid workers and cash into Gaza.

He also stressed the need for relief operations to take place “free from any political interference,” with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and “those with control on the ground” not trying to “control politically the immediate humanitarian assistance we are giving.”

Speaking about the appeal last week in the Swiss Alps city of Davos, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that without urgent action, Gaza could face a greater humanitarian calamity.

“People have lost their families. They have lost their homes, belongings and livelihoods. Schools, clinics, factories and businesses have been destroyed. Many of Gaza’s inhabitants still lack clean water and electricity. Too many are living in the midst of raw sewage and the threats to their health that brings,” said Mr. Ban, who saw the devastation first-hand when he visited Gaza last month.

“By answering the call of this appeal, in the amount of $613 million, the world can help overcome at least some measure of their hardship,” the Secretary-General stated.

In a related development, the Secretary-General’s top adviser on children and armed conflict will embark tomorrow on a five-day mission to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel for a first-hand assessment of the situation of children in Gaza.

While in the region, Radhika Coomaraswamy will also meet with various groups – including the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, members of civil society, NGOs and conflict-affected children – to ensure that children are protected in the wake of the hostilities.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Israel must open crossings to Gaza to counter misery and extremism – UN official

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