UNRWA, World Health Organization Address Gaza Crisis

11 Jul
5:02 AM

The director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Robert Turner, decalred Thursday that the people of Gaza are again suffering due to Israeli bombardment. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Palestinian Ministry of Health are calling on local and international donors to support the Ministry in coping with the crisis. The Palestinian Deputy Legislative Council has issued a formal statement, as well, to free world parliamentarians everywhere.In a statement, Turner stated Thursday: ‘Already 76 Gazans have reportedly been killed, including 10 children and over 500 injured, including as a result of the apparently deliberate targeting of residences. The United Nations has condemned indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza on civilian areas in Israel and I do so again now. I also condemn use of force by Israeli security forces on Gaza that cause civilian casualties in violation of international humanitarian law.

‘UNRWA has been in Gaza for 64 years, providing human development and relief support to Palestine refugees. Even during this time of conflict we continue to provide critical support; just yesterday as I visited our facilities I met refugee women who, in the midst of a massive bombing operation, brought their children to our health clinic for the their vaccinations, a commitment to their children’s well-being that continues to impress me. Our staff had turned up to work, as I expected they would. Almost 600 refugees received care at that one clinic.

‘At one of our distribution centers I met desperately poor refugees who came out to receive their quarterly food package. 12,346 refugee families received food assistance from us yesterday as part of our regular programme, one that has grown from 80,000 beneficiaries to over 830,000 since 2000. This is a direct result of the blockade of Gaza, now in its eighth year, which allows virtually no one from Gaza to leave and no access to markets and has led to the de-development of what was, not long ago, a vibrant, middle-income economy.

‘In Gaza our nearly 13,000 staff remains completely committed to serving the refugees. In addition to our regular programming I declared an emergency in all our five areas and our emergency procedures have been activated. We hope that all actors will exercise maximum restraint and take necessary measures to de-escalate the situation. In any event, our preparedness levels are high but not where we would like them to be. History shows us we can expect to shelter up to 50,000 displaced Gazans in our schools if a ground invasion occurs yet we hold stocks for less than 35,000, a legacy of scarce financial resources that did not allow us to replenish contingency supplies after the devastating flooding in December last year.

‘We have been here before. UNRWA stood with the Palestine refugees in the conflict in 2008/2009 and again in 2012. We do so now, and as our Commissioner General has reiterated, we will continue to do so until there is a just and durable solution to the refugee question,’ Turner concluded, according to WAFA Palestinian News & Info Agency.

WAFA further reports that the recent escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip has raised concern about the ability of the Government and the Ministry of Health, in the occupied Palestinian territories, to cope with the increased burden of medical emergencies on the health system, given the high levels of shortages of medicines, medical disposables and hospital fuel supplies, and rising health care debt, according to a news release by the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO and the Palestinian Ministry of Health have called on local and international donors to support the Ministry in coping with the current crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories, especially in the Gaza Strip.

Since 6 July, At least 89 people, with over 600 wounded, have now been reported killed during the recent military strikes on Gaza. A hospital, three clinics and a water desalinization centre in a refugee camp were also damaged.

More airstrikes and missile attacks are reported to be likely.

The Ministry of Health has reported that they are unable to maintain adequate medicine stocks due to chronic outstanding debts, which now total more than US$ 253 million (New Israeli Sheqel 874 million). Of the debt, US$ 105 million is owed to pharmaceutical suppliers and US$ 148 million to private Palestinian medical referral centers. East Jerusalem hospitals are struggling due to US$ 57 million in unpaid referral services, especially the Augusta Victoria hospital, which receives 70% of cancer referrals from the Gaza Strip and 40% of West Bank cases for chemotherapy and radiotherapy. By the end of June, Ministry central drug stores reported that 27% of essential medicine items were at zero stock in the West Bank and at 28% in the Gaza Strip. Both areas also noted that half of medical consumable items were at zero stock.

The situation in the Gaza Strip is most critical, WAFA reports, as additional factors are aggravating the situation:

The Ministry of Health has only 10 days of fuel reserves to power hospitals during the frequent breaks in electric power from main lines. Half of government health workers have not received their salaries in recent months, and some can no longer afford to report for work. Ministry hospitals have stopped all elective surgeries in the past week to save resources and are trying to cope with urgent ones. This means that only urgent, life-saving operations are being carried out; operations such as orthopaedic reconstructive surgeries and cholecystectomies are being postponed until next year.

A physician in Shifa hospital, on duty for 24 hours, said, ‘We are working in a terrible situation. I did not have the necessary materials to stitch my trauma patients today and had to improvise.’

Dr. Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said: ‘We faced a similar situation in 2008–2009 and in 2012 in the Gaza Strip when stocks were low and medicines were urgently needed. Today, the West Bank is also affected by shortfalls in budget and medical supplies. The response and preparedness of the health sector is at very low level, and we are concerned about a possible collapse of health services. We are making an urgent appeal for US$ 40 million to support the Ministry of Health in providing essential supplies for health care sufficient for six months, which will guarantee basic preparedness, and US$ 20 million for referral debts to the East Jerusalem hospitals.’

The appeal is being coordinated with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as the agency has expressed similar concern about the situation of medicines and the East Jerusalem hospitals.

WHO is continuing to work with the Ministry of Health in coordinating humanitarian aid from donors, including the facilitation of the entry of medicines into the Gaza Strip.

Al Ray Palestinian Media Agency has released a formal letter from the Deputy Legislative committee, addressed to all free world parliamentarians:

Dear all,

Three days ago, Israel started a large-scale military aggression against Gaza and since then it destroyed nearly 70 homes that were inhabited, and killed nearly 80 people, and wounded approximately 450 Children and women.

This aggression comes within the context of the policies of occupation aimed at Judaizing Jerusalem and swallowing the largest possible area of land in the West Bank.

The aggression on Gaza may cause endless humanitarian disasters, because of the length of the hermetic siege on Gaza Strip, resulting in a severe shortage of necessities, in the services provided by the Ministry of Health, municipalities and all providers of services to people in normal circumstances, as the savage aggression is unlimited and could expand more and more. Accordingly, we urge you to:

– Urgently act within your Parliament and Government to condemn this aggression.
– Organize protests in front of the embassies of Israel, and cut ties with Israel.
– Call upon Diplomatic circles to work in organizations of the United Nations, including the Security Council to condemn the aggression and call for the a swift halt of the aggression and occupation.
– Organize quick relief convoys, especially in the medical field

Yours sincerely,
Deputy Legislative Council

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