2 May 2008 – Fuel shortages and rising food prices are placing heavy burdens on the lead United Nations agency assisting Palestinian refugees and forcing it to cut back on life-saving activities in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, its spokesperson said today.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is currently facing a shortfall of more than $117 million in its General Fund, hampering efforts to provide emergency and regular food aid to nearly one million refugees in the West Bank and Gaza alone, spokesperson Matthias Burchard told reporters in Geneva.
Regarding the fuel situation, he said that although the Agency has received enough fuel to allow it to resume food aid distribution in Gaza, the haphazard supply is making it impossible to carry out any planning. And it is worried that it is again running out of fuel today.
According to UNRWA, the streets of Gaza are virtually empty of cars and public transportation has stopped. As a result, enrolment in UNRWA schools – which provides education to nearly 200,000 children – is now basically limited to those who are able to walk to school.
“Apart from all the other hardships, it is particularly heart-wrenching that education, once the trump card of Palestine refugees, proudly referred to also by its donors, is now reduced to who can still walk to school,” Mr. Burchard told reporters in Geneva.
UNRWA’s Director of Operations in Gaza has called the humanitarian situation in Gaza “shocking and shameful,” and said the solution to reverse the current trend of human misery and violence is access for people and supplies to get into and out of Gaza.