Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Situation Report on the Humanitarian Situation in the Gaza Strip – No. 16
22-23 January 2009
The following information is based on reports from member states, the UN Country Team for the occupied Palestinian territory, humanitarian partners and authorities involved in the humanitarian response.
1. General Overview
1. The ceasefire in Gaza continues to hold, though four Palestinians were injured on 22 January by a shell fired from off the Gaza coast. A child was also injured on 22 January due to gunfire east of Gaza City.
2. The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) and the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process visited Gaza on 22 January, launching an assessment process of the humanitarian needs in Gaza. Describing the scene at several sites, the ERC informed that he, “saw a lot of shocking destruction” and underscored the heavy and multi-faceted impact that the conflict has had on the civilian population. He further emphasised that, “it is shocking that civilians suffered so disproportionately in this military operation”.
3. The ongoing assessment will focus on life-saving needs, including restoring basic social services, such as water, health and education, as well as emergency repairs of critical infrastructure. The assessment will be followed by the launch of the Gaza Flash Appeal on 2 February in Geneva, to address urgent humanitarian and early recovery needs.
4. The UN Secretary General briefed the Security Council on his mission to the Middle East 21 January. He highlighted that, “much more remains to be done on both the humanitarian and diplomatic fronts,” underscoring that, “for many in Gaza this remains an hour of despair, grief and desperate need”. Members of the Security Council stressed the need for the unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian aid throughout Gaza.
5. The international NGOs CARE and Save the Children released a joint statement on 22 January highlighting that, “they are prevented from scaling up their emergency response because of restrictions on humanitarian access and movement of international NGOs into Gaza.” Citing that the agencies have not been allowed to send any staff and have been limited in sending aid into Gaza, they called for, “immediate and unfettered access for humanitarian aid and staff into Gaza to meet the critical and growing needs of the population, more than half of whom are children.” During his mission in the region, the ERC underscored the need to open all border crossings so that aid and humanitarian staff can enter Gaza to address urgent needs.
2.1 Coordination and Humanitarian Response
6. UNICEF is preparing a report on child rights violations during the recent fighting in Gaza, as requested by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict.
7. In response to the serious risk posed by Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO), UNICEF is airing two new radio announcements on mine risk education and will distribute a leaflet to raise awareness of the risks in Gaza. In an effort to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian support, UN Mine Action Service, Mine Action Group and Norwegian Peoples Aid began an assessment of the scope and scale of the UXO problem in Gaza on 23 January.
8. On 23 January, Amnesty International called on the Israeli authorities to disclose the weapons and munitions used during the fighting in Gaza, citing that they, “now know that white phosphorous munitions were used in built-up civilian areas”. It was highlighted that this information is critical so that doctors can, “be fully informed so that they can provide life-saving care”.
9. Casualty figures: