1 January 2009 – The United Nations agency tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees has appealed for $34 million to address the humanitarian needs of the population of Gaza, whose needs continue to mount amid an ongoing Israeli military operation that began on 27 December.
The funds will enable the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to provide emergency food, shelter, medical supplies, fuel and cash assistance for a four-month period.
The $34 million is in addition to the $275 million UNRWA sought in the 2009 Emergency Appeal it issued in December for the occupied Palestinian territory.
“In my eight years in UNRWA, the urgency of an appeal for the people here has never been so acute,” UNRWA Commissioner General Karen AbuZayd said in a news release issued from the Agency's headquarters in Gaza.
“I am appalled and saddened when I see the suffering around me. I call on the international community to respond with the promptness and generosity demanded by the desperate situation in Gaza today,” she added.
Essential humanitarian supplies were already in short supply in Gaza before the military operation began because Israel kept border crossings into the area closed, citing rocket and other attacks by Gaza militants.
Although it is difficult to get reliable figures on casualties, the UN estimates that between 320 and 380 people have died in the operation which is now in its sixth day and between 1,500 and 1,900 have been wounded. In addition, four Israelis have been killed by Hamas rockets.
The airstrikes have inflicted considerable damage to already fragile public infrastructure and erased Gaza's public service capacity, thus making UNRWA's humanitarian interventions more crucial than ever, the Agency stressed.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other world leaders have repeatedly called for an immediate ceasefire, but so far those calls have gone unheeded.
At an emergency meeting of the Security Council last night, Mr. Ban said the impact of the violence has been “nothing short of terrifying” for the 1.5 million residents of Gaza, and stressed the need for an urgent halt to the violence and for crucial humanitarian aid to reach those in need.
“I urge all members of the international community, in particular those in the region, to exert what influence they have on the parties to end this violence now,” Mr. Ban told the meeting, which was convened at the request of Libya and Egypt on behalf of the Arab Group.
“I welcome the efforts underway, including by Arab and European leaders but I must repeat: not enough has been done, and more is urgently required.”
Ms. AbuZayd has also stressed the need for greater efforts by the international community to ensure an end to the violence.
“I think that lots of pressure needs to be put on both parties to stop the violence, to agree to have some sort of truce or lull, for a ceasefire that will last so people aren't afraid of what might happen next or when it's going to all start again,” she told the UN News Centre as part of its Newsmaker profile series.