More supplies must be allowed to enter Gaza - UN

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Abu Dhabi - The number of trucks allowed by Israel to enter Gaza daily to deliver much-needed relief supplies remains insufficient, according to the United Nations.

Further, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that only a limited array of items are being permitted to enter through the crossings.

OCHA said that between 30 January and 1 February, 192 trucks entered into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Although the Israeli authorities the Israeli authorities have assured aid agencies that the crossing would be opened to let 150 trucks through daily, capacity has not topped 120 truckloads.

Upon arriving in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday repeated his call for a durable and sustainable ceasefire in Gaza, as well as for the opening of all crossing points into the area.

Three shelters run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) - that are not schools - remain open, sheltering close to 400 people displaced in the recent three-week Israeli military offensive, but UNSCO said that despite most having left shelters, thousands of Gazans remain homeless.

It also reported that rolling blackouts continue in most of Gaza, with some areas having power for only half the day.

For its part, the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) said that most health centres are operating normally and that many supplies have been donated, but cautioned that medicines for mental health problems, ventilators and other items were urgently needed.

Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is seeking nearly $35 million to provide urgent help for children - who make up half of Gaza's 1.4 million-strong population - and their families.

Working with partners on the ground in Gaza, UNICEF seeks to deliver crucial supplies, financial assistance and technical expertise through 20 projects in areas such as protection, health, nutrition, water, sanitation and education.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the military operation - launched by Israel with the stated aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks - killed 1 380 Palestinians, of whom 431 were children and 112 were women.

UNICEF stressed that children, who had nowhere to hide, were severely psychologically affected by the conflict.

As a result, child protection - including mine-risk education, psychosocial support and recreational opportunities to create a sense of normalcy - must be a priority in Gaza, it said.

The $34.5 million the agency is seeking is part of a larger $613 UN appeal to provide assistance over a nine-month period.

Launching that appeal on Tuesday in Geneva, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said that the success of relief operations in Gaza hinges on three factors: access for aid agencies, a durable ceasefire and no political interference from any party.

"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.