22 July 2014
Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was also attended by Spokespersons for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations Refugee Agency, World Food Programme, World Health Organization and the World Meteorological Organization.
Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said he had the latest situation report from Gaza which covered a twenty-four hour period up until 3 p.m. yesterday, Monday 21 July. The report showed that the emergency had now seen over 500 people killed, the vast majority Palestinian civilians, and more than 100,000 people had been displaced in 69 United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) schools. There were more displaced people who were not in UNRWA schools, he added.
The protection situation was devastating for people in Gaza, said Mr. Laerke. The strip was extremely densely populated with an estimated 4,500 people per square kilometre. There was literally no safe place for civilians, he said.
Almost 500 houses had been completely destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli airstrikes, which had killed civilians and displaced the survivors, said Mr. Laerke.
A main priority for humanitarian agencies was the protection of civilians and evacuation and treatment of the injured. There were critical shortages of hospital supplies and medicines due to the large number of casualties and there were serious shortages even before the escalation of violence, Mr. Laerke said. Those who had been displaced to either UNRWA schools or elsewhere in Gaza needed food, water, mattresses and hygiene items.
According to assessments by aid workers on the ground, at least 107,000 children required specialized psychosocial support to deal with the trauma they were experiencing such as death or injury in their family or loss of their homes, said Mr. Laerke, adding that since the beginning of the crisis on 7 July, emergency psychosocial teams had been able to provide some initial support to 868 children across the Gaza strip.
Mr. Laerke said that more than 15,000 people whose homes had been destroyed needed emergency kits with non-food items, mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits and kitchen sets. Almost 9,000 people had received such assistance but in the medium term, they would all need cash assistance to cover rental fees.
Overall, an estimated 1.2 million people had no or limited access to water because the power systems in Gaza had been destroyed or simply because there was no fuel to generate them. There were also reports of sewage flooding, which was a threat to public health, added Mr. Laerke.
Humanitarian partners estimated that to just meet the most urgent needs today, they needed US$40 million, not counting the requirements of the UNRWA operation. A fast and flexible way for donors to channel funds to help people in Gaza was through the Emergency Response Fund, a pooled fund mechanism managed by OCHA, Mr. Laerke noted.
Ms. Momal-Vanian noted that the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was this week traveling in the Middle East region. The Secretary-General had already visited Doha, Kuwait, and Cairo, and this morning he met with Egyptian President Al Sisi in Cairo. A read-out of that meeting would be issued shortly.
The Secretary-General was now on his way to Tel Aviv and his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu this afternoon was confirmed. Ms. Momal-Vanian noted that the Secretary-General planned to afterwards to visit Ramallah for more meetings, before returning to Israel to continue with meetings tomorrow.
Juliette Touma, Communication Specialist for Middle East & North Africa for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) noted that according to UNICEF figures 121 children had been killed so far in the conflict since 8 July, and all were killed in Gaza.
Elisabeth Byrs, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said WFP had distributed emergency food rations and food vouchers to more than 90,000 people affected by the recent conflict in Gaza, and was bringing in additional ready-to-eat food, purchased locally and airlifted from Dubai.
Working closely with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the food security sector, WFP had been providing all food to those displaced in UNRWA shelters. That number reached 100,000 people on July 21, confirmed Ms. Byrs.
Ready-to-eat food stocks were running low in Gaza as the conflict had lasted two weeks and the needs were increasing, said Ms. Byrs. To rapidly replenish its stocks, WFP was purchasing canned food locally as well as procuring additional food from Dubai and internationally.
Prior to the conflict, WFP was providing monthly food assistance to over 600,000 of the most vulnerable people in Palestine; 285,000 in Gaza and 318,800 in the West Bank, Ms. Byrs noted.
Fadéla Chaib, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that 18 health-related facilities had been damaged in Gaza. They were two Ministry of Health hospitals, one non-governmental organization (NGO) hospital, four Ministry of Health clinics, five UNWRA clinics, three NGO clinics, two NGO nursing care centres and one emergency medical care centre.
There were critical concerns regarding hospital supplies due to serious medical shortages in both Ministry of Health and NGO hospitals, due to the large number of casualties, said Ms. Chaib, as well as serious shortages dating back to before the escalation of violence.
Regarding WHO activities in Gaza, Ms. Chaib said WHO was monitoring the needs in hospitals in Gaza on a daily basis, including the stocks and supplies of drugs and equipment. It was coordinating with health partners and donors for urgent resupply. WHO staff were also coordinating information on medical supplies with the Ministry of Health in Ramallah in the Emergency Operations Room, and providing a daily situation report for the Ministry of Health. WHO also provided daily health updates to health sector partners, and to OCHA for their comprehensive reporting.
WHO was requesting US$60 million from the health sector in its appeal for support, primarily for critical medicines and supplies, and in assisting in the facilitation of the entry of medical shipments into Gaza. So far WHO had received US$5 million, confirmed Ms. Chaib.
Human Rights Council Special Session on Occupied Palestinian Territory
The Human Rights Council would hold a Special Session probably on Wednesday, 23 July on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, confirmed Ms. Momal Vanian. The President of the Human Rights Council would convene an organizational meeting today, Tuesday 22 July, in the afternoon. The exact timings for the Special Session would be confirmed today.
Responding to a question, Ms. Momal-Vanian confirmed that United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay would address the Special Session of the Council..