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Source: Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP)
23 February 2009

Deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza: Lessons for operational agencies


On 27 December 2008, in response to continued rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israel, Israeli forces launched "Operation Cast Lead" - a combined land and air military operation in the Gaza Strip.

As well as causing damage to infrastructure and buildings, this operation had a considerable human cost. According to OCHA the operation has left 1,336 Palestinians dead, including an estimated 430 children and 110 women; 5,450 Palestinians injured, including 1,870 children and 800 women.

Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on 17 January, which was put into effect on 18 January, and Hamas and other Palestinian factions also declared a ceasefire later the same day. This ended the fighting, although several attacks have occurred resulting in at least one Israeli and five Palestinians killed and several rockets have been launched. The last few weeks have seen the deployment of a substantial humanitarian effort, with appeals from the Disasters Emergency Committee in the UK, and the Gaza Flash Appeal from the UN which totalled some $686m.

This lessons paper aims to distil key lessons for senior and mid-level managers in operational settings, as well as those staff working to support relief efforts from a regional / HQ level. It draws on the findings of a desk review, including evaluation reports in the ALNAP Evaluation Reports Database, and an extensive telephone-based research process with key international and national actors working in Gaza and Jerusalem.

While attempts were made to look at other comparable crises, the point was made at numerous times that there was no comparable situation. However, there are some partial parallels to the conditions facing agencies – for example, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Lebanon - and wherever possible, these have been drawn upon.

The fifteen lessons covered in this paper are divided into four sections. These sections each relate to specific areas of agency work, and while they have been separated for ease of reading, it is important to highlight that in complex settings, each of these areas are interconnected and, done effectively, should be mutually reinforcing.

The majority of these lessons focus on humanitarian concerns, although attention is also paid to recovery and reconstruction issues.

Special thanks are due to all those involved in the response, at head office and operational level, who gave their valuable time to this process, as well as peer reviewers who commented on the draft document.


Complete document in PDF format (Requires Acrobat Reader)

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