Info Service on Health Issues (Nov09/05)
Third World Network
blockade of Gaza
a humanitarian crisis
winter draws near, Israel
has been asked to open its border crossings immediately to avert a humanitarian
disaster in Gaza.
The following report details the desperation of the people as a result
of the Israeli blockade and the aftermath of Israelís bombing in 2008/2009.
following story is reproduced with permission from IPS and South-North
Development Monitor SUNS #6819, 20 November 2009
East: Gazans brace for cold, bleak and miserable winter
By Mel Frykberg,
IPS, Ezbt Abbed Rabbo, 17 November 2009
Tens of thousands
of Gazans living in tents and damaged homes face a wet, cold and miserable
winter as Israel's blockade of the coastal territory
continues to prevent the importation of building and reconstruction
During the last few weeks, Gazans were given a brief reprieve from the
oncoming winter as an un-seasonal snap of warmish, sunny weather held
off winter rain and plummeting temperatures.
But, during a tour of northern Gaza last
week, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory,
Maxwell Gaylard, and the Association of International Development Agencies
(AIDA) called on Israel to open its border crossings
immediately to avert a further deterioration in the humanitarian situation
on the ground.
"With winter rains and cold weather now imminent, the people of
Gaza are even more desperately in need of construction materials such
as cement, roofing tiles and glass to build and repair homes destroyed
and damaged during the Israeli military offensive of 2008/2009,"
During Israel's intensive
bombing campaign in December/January, Gaza's
infrastructure was heavily targeted leading to the destruction and damage
of thousands of homes.
urgently requires 268,000 square metres of glass for windows and 67,000
square metres of glass for solar water heaters or enough glass to cover
more than 30 football pitches. More than 500 children are still living
in tents," Mike Bailey from Oxfam told IPS.
Damage caused to Gaza's water, sanitation and electricity systems, exacerbated
by Israel's crippling blockade which forbids the import of most essential
spare parts and fuel, has further limited the ability of aid agencies
to supply essential services.
The lack of concrete water storage tanks means that fresh water can
only enter water pipes when there is electricity to power water pumps.
Backup generators - which rely on fuel - are needed to ensure power
cuts do not lead to water shortages and pollution of water.
"The humanitarian situation is going to deteriorate if something
doesn't give," Gaylard told IPS during a tour of the Ezbt Abbed
Rabbo area of the northern Gaza
"We are reaching out to the international community. We are appealing
to the member countries of the UN on a regular basis about this continuing
crisis... We are holding discussions with the UN General Assembly and
the UN Security Council. One would hope that the message would be getting
out after the Goldstone report," said Gaylard.
"We are continuing talks with the Israeli government but pressure
must be brought to bear on those responsible for keeping the border
crossings closed," Gaylard told IPS.
Fifty metres away from where the media gathered to hear the UN coordinator
address the escalating humanitarian crisis, dozens of Gazan families
were living the crisis first-hand.
Muhammad Zaid's five-storey home - which took four years to build and
was home to 16 people, the youngest a one-year-old - was flattened during
15 days of intensive Israeli shelling at the beginning of the year,
forcing the family to flee.
For the first five months after the war, Zaid and his family lived under
the caved-in bottom floor of the building. For the last five months,
the Zaids have lived in a tent supplied by the UN Relief and Works Agency
Despite the recent unusually warm and dry weather, the heavens opened
up for one night last week and rainwater flooded their tent as the family
desperately tried to salvage belongings.
"We were awake the whole night scooping water out and trying to
dig a small ditch around the tent to prevent more water flooding in
but it didn't help. The children were terrified and screaming. It was
so cold," Zaid told IPS.
However, when the winter rains begin to flood his tent on a regular
basis in the near future, Zaid, who is unemployed and in huge debt,
will face the additional problems of having only intermittent electricity,
and no running water. "I have spent over $3,000 of borrowed money
for a new refrigerator and stove and some other basic appliances but
we have no heater and the electricity keeps cutting," said Zaid.
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