Friday, May 2, 2008

Israel allows "only a trickle of medicine, food, fuel and other goods" into Gaza

May 2, 2008

"After almost a year of siege Gaza closer than ever to total breakdown:

"Agencies challenge Mid-East Quartet to break its collective complacency over Gaza's suffering"

Published by Oxfam at:

UK agencies today called on members of the Mid-East Quartet - the US, EU, Russia and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - to end its complacency by putting the highest diplomatic pressure on the Israeli government to lift the blockade on Gaza and allow in adequate supplies to stop an impending humanitarian crisis. Quartet members will be meeting in London today (Friday).

The agencies, including Oxfam, Christian Aid, CARE International UK, CAFOD and Medecins du Monde UK, said that the stranglehold on Gaza's borders has made life for ordinary people in Gaza intolerable, and the work of the UN and other humanitarian agencies has been made virtually impossible. Only a trickle of medicine, food, fuel and other goods is being allowed in. It has made people highly dependent on food aid, and brought the health system and basic services such as water and sanitation near to collapse.

Two months ago, the agencies released a detailed report saying conditions in Gaza were the worst since 1967. Now it is worse still. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) last week was forced to temporarily suspend the distribution of food aid to 650,000 people due to lack of fuel and has reported that 300,000 people only have drinking water for 4 hours every 4 days. Meanwhile, rubbish from one million people piles up in the streets because there is no fuel to collect it.

"The collective complacency of the Quartet is putting the future of the people of Gaza on the line. We need the immediate unimpeded import of fuel, humanitarian supplies and essential equipment and materials that have been withheld by Israel for more than 9 months to ease this human suffering and avert a disaster. It is well within the power of the EU and the US to make this happen. Instead of wringing hands and wagging fingers they should insist on an immediate end to Gaza's suffering," said Oxfam GB Director Barbara Stocking.

There are three essential elements. A guarantee that all the fuel Gaza needs will be delivered and that fuel will no longer be withheld to punish the people of Gaza for illegal acts they cannot control; clearance of food, medicines, spare parts for water systems and hospital equipment and everyday items such as toilet rolls, sanitary pads and paper for school books that have no security relevance but have been banned by Israel from entering Gaza; to secure full re-opening of all crossings for passage of goods and of people.

"Peace will not be achieved by locking 1.5 million people into a prison of spiralling poverty and misery. Strong leadership is needed from within the Quartet to convince Israel of the need to chart a new direction on Gaza," said Geoffrey Dennis, Chief Executive of CARE International UK.

Plans exist that would enable the reopening of the crossings in the matter of days. All that is needed is political will and agreement to make this happen and return to the Agreement on Movement and Access.