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Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
30 May 2008
Overview - Key Issues
Update on Gaza
During April, 70 people were killed in the Gaza Strip in direct conflict related incidents, 21 of whom were children. The largest single-incident casualty toll took place during the IDF ground operation in Juhor ad Dik area northeast of Al Bureij Camp on 16 April, during which seven children (aged 12, 13, 14(2), 15(3) years) were killed by IAF missiles, and 12 others were injured, two of whom died of their wounds on 20 April. The same day another two children were killed and two were injured by flechette rounds that struck a Reuters press vehicle on Salah Ed-Din road in Central Gaza.
b) Fuel and cooking gas crisis
During April, fuel supply (including benzene, diesel and industrial gasoline) allowed by Israel to Gaza was further reduced to 7.8 million litres, while the monthly average between October 2007 and March 2008 was 14.6 million litres. Fuel shortage is affecting different sectors in Gaza, including health, agriculture and water and sanitation. These sectors require about 26.3 million litres of fuel a month.
The problem further worsened with Gaza experiencing a shortage in cooking gas; only 2.2 million kg of cooking gas entered Gaza during April, whereas its monthly need is 7.5 million kg. Compared with March, April saw a drop of about 60% in the quantity of cooking gas supplied to Gaza.
Impact of fuel and cooking gas shortage
Sewage dumping in the Mediterranean Sea
As electricity cuts are difficult to back-up, due to fuel shortage, the CMWU (Coastal Municipalities Water Utility) was forced (since 24 January) to pump sewage into the Mediterranean Sea, in order to avoid flooding in residential areas. The CMWU, which received only 20.2% of its fuel needs between January and April 2008, pumps approximately 80,000 m3 of sewage (about 30,000 m3 of raw sewage and 50,000 m3 of partially treated sewage) every day into the sea, which creates a potential public health hazard.
(For more details on wastewater pumping stations, please see the Water and Sanitation section)
WHO facilitated the collection of seawater samples from 13 risky areas in the five governorates of the Gaza Strip. Two microbiological tests were carried out to examine the presence of human faecal (Faecal Coliform) and animal faecal (Faecal Streptococcus). Results revealed that three areas in Gaza and one area in Rafah governorates (30.8%) are polluted with Faecal Coliform and Faecal Streptococcus; and three areas in Gaza city (23.1%) are polluted only with Faecal Coliform.
Impact on MoH (Ministry of Health) hospitals
During April, the MoH hospitals in the Gaza Strip had to limit their services due to power cuts and shortage in fuel, which feeds their emergency generators and vehicles. This resulted in the following:
Nasser, Gaza European and Yousef Najar hospitals in • the southern Gaza Strip and Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in the Middle Area had to suspend all elective surgical operations for two weeks;
Shifa and Nassr hospitals had to reduce the capacity of • laundry rooms by 50% for one week;
Ten out of the 44 MoH ambulances were not functioning • for two weeks, including one mobile clinic that provides primary health care services to 13 different areas in the Gaza Strip. Fifty six MoH and PRCS ambulances only had their fuel tanks partially filled.
(For more information, please see the health section herein)
Impact on agriculture
a- Poultry farmers were forced to kill 165,000 chicks due to their inability to keep them warm and healthy due to the shortage in cooking gas.
b- Many farmers stopped irrigating their crops due to the difficulty of pumping water from agricultural wells, 70% of which run on diesel. Some farmers were forced to harvest crops prematurely, while others’ crops dried.
c) Gaza Crossings
During April, the number of truckloads allowed into Gaza (1,991) fell by 42% compared with March 2008 (3,399 truckloads) and by 84%, compared with the same month in 2007 (12,378 truckloads). Of the 1,991 truckloads, 259 trucks delivered humanitarian aid goods. The vast majority of imported commodities in April remained limited to food, hygiene and medical supplies, with a 34% decrease in the total amount of imported basic food commodities compared to March 2008. No exports have been allowed since December 2007.
d) Availability of drugs in the Gaza Strip (WHO)
During April, more drugs were available at central drug stores in the Gaza Strip. The number of drug items at zero1 level dropped to 23 drug items of 416 essential items on the drug list in April, compared with 55 items in March 2008.
e) Access of Palestinian patients through Erez (WHO)
During April, 1,077 patients from Gaza applied for permits to cross Erez for treatment in specialized health services in the West Bank (including E. Jerusalem), Israel, Egypt and Jordan. Of the total number, 709 patients or 65.8% were granted permits, whilst 54 (5.0%) had their applications denied and 314 (29.2%) were still being processed. 2
f) Availability and prices of basic commodities
All basic food commodities were available in the market during April despite localized shortages of fresh meat, frozen meat and frozen fish.
The price of rice increased by 11 % compared to March 2008 due to reduced imported quantities from Egypt. A significant increase occurred in the prices of some vegetable, esp. lemon, by 15% compared to March 2008, while a decrease in the price of the other vegetables occurred, such as cucumber and potato, due to the availability of large quantities in the market due to harvest season.
The price of chicken, frozen fish and frozen meat remained stable. The price of fresh meat remained stable at 44-45 NIS/kg.
The price of animal feed was stable during April.
Increase in child casualties
During April, a total of 24 Palestinian children were killed in direct conflict related incidents in the oPt. This brings to 76 the total number of Palestinian children killed in 2008, constituting 81% of all children killed during the entire year of 2007.3 In the Gaza Strip, 62% of child deaths resulted from IAF firing missiles on localities in Gaza North and Deir al Balah governorates and 24% from tank shells fired during IDF incursions into the Gaza Strip.
In the West Bank, two 15-year-old boys were killed; one was run over by an Israeli settler bus near Salim village (Nablus), and the other was found dead near Hamra settlement (Nablus). It remains unknown whether he was killed by an Israeli settler or a Palestinian. In addition, one boy was killed in an explosion in a house in Jabaliya (North Gaza) when a household member was preparing an explosive device. (For more details, see Child Protection section herein).
Humanitarian access was more difficult during April
Access for humanitarian staff was reported to be more difficult in April than in previous months. New additional Israeli restrictions at crossings and checkpoints into East Jerusalem and across the Barrier, including searches of UN cars, resulted in 179 reported access incidents with UN staff resulting in a loss of 3,228 work-hours during April. The UN lost more staff hours in March and April 2008 than all lost staff hours for 2007. Access for humanitarian goods in most areas continued. However, in certain cases, needing detours because of roadblocks and closures.
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