COMING TO THE AID OF THE GAZA STRIP
UNRWA LAUNCHES SPECIAL EMERGENCY APPEAL
18 July 2014
The beginning of July has seen a dramatic escalation of violence in Gaza as hostilities have erupted between Israel and Hamas, including a massive Israeli military operation that is taking a devastating toll on men, women and children in the Gaza Strip. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has declared an emergency in all five governorates of the Gaza Strip. It appeals today for US$ 60 million to respond to the urgent and pressing humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza , including the thousands who have already fled their homes to seek safety in UNRWA facilities.
New funding will enable UNRWA to respond to the immediate shelter, food, health and psycho-social needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs), while replenishing emergency supplies and preparing for vital interventions necessary after a cessation of military activities. The emergency response phase is expected to last for one month, and the early recovery a further three to six months.
Close to 22,000 civilians, threatened by the current conflict or having seen their homes destroyed or damaged, have already sought shelter in UNRWA facilities; that number is expected to rise to 50,000 if an end to the crisis is not reached soon. Others have sought safety with relatives or remain for the moment in their homes.
UNRWA aims to provide those in designated emergency shelters with food, hygiene kits and basic household items; food assistance alone requires US$ 9.9 million. Health services, including psycho-social support, are also an important element of the response plan. The Agency also has a responsibility to assist families in need of shelter repair or cash assistance, for those whose homes have been rendered uninhabitable. Repairs and cash assistance for shelter require a combined US$ 41.4 million.
“The population of Gaza is, once again, forced to endure great suffering as a result of the current military operations. Many have lost their lives or sustained serious injuries. Thousands of people are now in a situation of extreme need.This dramatic escalation of violence exacerbates the protracted humanitarian crisis Gaza has faced over a decade”, explained UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl. Israel's blockade, which impedes the free movement of people and cuts off access to markets, has devastated the economy of Gaza and deepened poverty levels, to the point where now the majority of the population is dependent on humanitarian assistance. Mr. Krahenbuhl added: “the current crisis is once again underlining how critical UNRWA's role is for the refugees in need of protection and assistance. We are fully committed to continue providing that support with the help of our partners.”
Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza Robert Turner added: “As I visit with refugees and staff I am overwhelmed with the level of loss and destruction. UNRWA is committed to responding to the emergency needs of the people in Gaza, as we have done in the past. At the same time, we must ensure that our vital core services in health, relief and environmental health remain available to the 1.25 million refugees we already serve. UNRWA’s flash emergency appeal is an essential means through which we can help ease the burden on too many Gazans and set the grounds to start the rehabilitation process when the current crisis ends, which I hope will be very soon.”
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UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 68 million.
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