THE UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, has launched a
£264-million appeal to help support the most disadvantaged
families. Other aid organisations have expressed concern at the
slow pace of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.
The deputy commissioner-general for UNRWA, Margot Ellis, said
that she was disappointed that 2014 was ending "as yet another year
without a durable solution to the plight of Palestine refugees".
The past months had witnessed more violent conflict "that has yet
again caused the irreparable and inconsolable loss of lives".
The UN agency says that the conflict in Gaza earlier this year
"devastated the economy, which had already been weakened by years
of blockade. With even fewer livelihood opportunities, food
insecurity has deepened, and now represents the bulk of the UNRWA
The agency is seeking to provide "basic food to over 800,000
food-insecure refugees, and provide 245,000 students with one small
meal per school day. UNRWA will also provide emergency cash
assistance. Additionally, UNRWA will provide emergency health and
education, as well as counsellors, to help address the needs of
children and adults in trauma."
Oxfam, in its December Gaza update, points out that "three
months since the ceasefire, and nearly two months since the
international community pledged $5.4 billion [£3.4 billion] in aid,
the reconstruction of Gaza has barely begun, and the Israeli
blockade remains firmly in place. The needs are greater than ever,
yet even fewer construction materials are now entering Gaza than
before the conflict."
The report adds that about 100,000 people - more than half of
them children - are still displaced, as their homes have been
destroyed. Vital water and sanitation infrastructure, schools, and
health facilities also urgently need rebuilding. Such massive
reconstruction "will require hundreds of thousands of truckloads of
essential materials as soon as possible. However, in November, just
287 such truckloads entered Gaza. At this rate, reconstruction and
development could take decades."
As winter sets in, Oxfam says, the situation is becoming
increasingly urgent. Homes, schools, and shelters have already
suffered severe flooding owing to heavy rains, and this is expected
to get worse this month. Many families are living in makeshift
shelters, with no heating or running water, as temperatures
"It is deplorable that such little progress has been made, given
the enormous scale of needs and massive destruction," Oxfam's
regional director, Catherine Essoyan, said. "People in Gaza are
becoming increasingly and understandably frustrated at the lack of
progress. The international community has repeatedly failed the
people of Gaza; it must not fail them again at such a critical
Looking to the future, Oxfam says that, because long-term
ceasefire talks scheduled to begin by the start of November have
not happened, the agency remains "extremely concerned that conflict
will continue to reoccur unless long-standing issues are
The health of Gaza residents is another concern, and the
Christian charity Us. (formerly USPG) has launched a Christmas
appeal on behalf of the Anglican Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza.
The Ireland director of Us., Linda Chambers, has described some
of the scenes she encountered during a recent visit to the
hospital. At the paediatric out-patients clinic, she witnessed a
young mother and her underweight baby having a check-up. The doctor
"talks to the mother about nutrition. When she leaves, he admits
that educating mothers is useless when there is no food, and many
babies live on tea and bread.
"Waiting to go in next is a father and three children. Both
little boys have been suffering from skin complaints, and have raw
red rashes on arms and legs, and behind their ears. Their father
and hospital staff blame chemicals in bombs dropped by Israel in
July and August."
In the waiting room for the physical-therapy department, "we are
stopped by a woman with serious damage to her eye. She says her eye
injury and a serious leg injury are the result of a beating from
Israeli soldiers during the invasion in July. She was trying to
protect a young man and was beaten herself."
Waiting in the burns unit is a young man "who yesterday burned
his whole arm with boiling oil. There is no cooking gas available
in Gaza, and, like many others, he was deep-frying over an open
fire. He will be treated with a whirlpool - a tank of water rather
like a mini-jacuzzi. This encourages blood flow into damaged
Restricted electricity supplies are causing problems for all
institutions in Gaza. The Al-Ahli Hospital has generators as a
back-up, which allows operating theatres and electronic equipment
to be used. But fuel for generators is expensive; so the hospital
wants to install solar panels - a big investment, but a
cost-effective one. Installing the panels would require expenditure
of £120,000, while the annual saving on fuel would be £65,000.
Concluding her report, Ms Chambers wrote: "If we needed it, our
trip certainly convinced us of the positive impact we can have by
supporting the vital work of Al-Ahli Hospital."