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28 January 2009

Even as aid agencies struggle to meet the immediate needs of those left injured, homeless and traumatised by the Israeli operation in Gaza, concerns are growing that reconstruction efforts could become bogged down in a complex political tangle. Initial Palestinian estimates said rebuilding would cost $2bn (£1.4bn) and take three to five years, even without the host of obstacles Gaza faces. [...] UN relief agency Unrwa says it has contacts with Hamas "even at ministerial level", but strictly on technical issues related to the delivery of its humanitarian services in line with wider UN policy. And the distribution of some World Food Programme aid is carried out by Hamas - albeit with strict monitoring in place to ensure it reaches the people it is intended for. "In every country that we work in, we deal with the authorities - so in Gaza we deal with the Ministry of Social Affairs. "If the next question is 'Are they Hamas?', then the answer is 'Yes they are'," says spokesman Robin Lodge.


27 January 2009

Thousands of Gazans remain homeless and hospitals still have a large number of intensive care patients over a week after a ceasefire ended Israel's devastating three-week offensive, according to the latest United Nations update, which calls for immediate unhindered humanitarian access to the Strip's 1.5 million inhabitants. [...] All 10 UNRWA distribution centres are open, feeding 25,000 people per day, and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed 95 tonnes of food aid to 993 families (nearly 6,000 people) in Gaza City and North Gaza.


27 January 2009

France sent technical equipment to help Gazans draw water from the ground. The Swiss sent blankets and plastic tarps. Mercy Corps, a relief agency, sent 12 truckloads of food. And on Tuesday all of it, including dozens of other trucks carrying sugar, rice, flour, juice and baby formula, sat in the hot sun here going nowhere. This normally quiet commercial crossing between Egypt and Israel has been turned into a parking lot of stalled, humanitarian aid, and in the city of El Arish there are even greater quantities of food, clothing and essential supplies, sitting, waiting and baking in the sun.


26 January 2009

The World Food Program says many more people in Gaza are in need of food assistance now than before the three-week war with Israel began at the end of December. The U.N. agency says it will be providing food assistance to 365,000 non-refugee Palestinians, an increase of 100,000. [...] WFP Middle East Regional Director Daly Belgasmi was in Gaza just before the war began. He says the situation was dire then, but it is worse now. "Basic commodities remain in short supply and especially grain. The bakeries, they do not have sufficient wheat flour and the price of bread in many areas has doubled since the conflict began," said Belgasmi.


23 January 2009

The Japanese government on Friday sent 1 million dollars of relief goods to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip with the aim of helping make temporary shelters for civilian victims of Israel''s military attacks on the strip, which destroyed thousands of homes, officials here said . It included 29,000 blankets, 20,000 sleeping mats and 8,000 plastic sheets and is to be sent to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Japan has already contributed about 10 million dollars of emergency aid to the reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip. Three million dollars of the emergency aid would go to the UN Children''s Fund, particularly for medical supplies, and 4 million dollars would be provided to the World Food Programme, the Foreign Ministry said.


22 January 2009

The top United Nations humanitarian official arrived in Jerusalem on Wednesday to begin an assessment of the needs on the ground in the Gaza Strip following the three-week Israeli military offensive that came to a halt just a few days ago, UN officials announced here. UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes will lead a humanitarian needs assessment team into Gaza on Thursday, together with the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, the officials said. [...] The World Food Program (WFP) is trying to help by delivering flour to bakeries, and WFP-contracted bakeries are now working to produce 5,000 three-kilogram bread parcels per day. WFP also reports that a first shipment of 10 tons of nutritious date bars --supplied by Egypt under WFP's Operation Lifeline Gaza -- made it into Gaza Tuesday. At the same time, the UN agency remains concerned by security constraints, which are limiting access to its warehouses. It does not have access currently to some 520 tons of food, or 12 percent of WFP's current stocks in Gaza.


22 January 2009

Aid agencies are battling to meet the urgent needs of tens and thousands of displaced, homeless and injured people in Gaza, as well as to get damaged water, power and sewage infrastructure back even to their ailing pre-war levels. That stage alone will cost "hundreds of millions" of dollars, while long term reconstruction will run into "billions," the UN has said. Two separate Palestinian surveys have put the cost of the damage just under $2bn. [...] Even before the Israeli assault, aid agencies were warning of malnutrition in Gaza, as the aid-reliant population struggled to afford and access dairy, meat and fresh vegetable products to supplement the bread, rice and oil that form the backbone of humanitarian aid. Although food aid has entered the strip during and since the fighting, security problems hampered distribution, while damage to tunnels under the Egyptian border and agricultural fields have pushed up prices for other goods. [...] UN food agency the World Food Programme (WFP) says the price of chicken increased 23% percent; the price of wheat flour by 45%; the price of peppers by 100% and the price of tomatoes by 500%.


22 January 2009

[...] More than 37,000 tons of staple foodstuff and emergency medical supplies entered the Gaza Strip through one Israeli crossing from the time Israel began its military offensive until it declared a unilateral cease-fire on January 17. [...] The main problem of getting supplies into Gaza during the operation was not a lack of will or resources, but a limited capacity of passage, Robin Lodge, a spokesman for the World Food Programme told TML. “When the crisis began there were between 20 and 30 trucks going though Kerem Shalom a day, and now that’s up to 90 with a maximum capacity of 120, but it’s still not enough,” Lodge said while the operation was ongoing. The WFP provided basic rations that include wheat flour, vegetable oil, split peas and sugar to around 135,000 non-refugee Gazans, totaling more than 3,700 tons. Lodge said the WFP was already backlogged before the operation began, because of the blockade that did not allow it to bring in all its supplies. [...] The organization is planning a month-long distribution of ready-to-eat food, on top of its regular rations, which will include nutritious date-bars manufactured in Egypt.


21 January 2009

The Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation (JHCO) has dispatched 261 aid convoys to the Gaza Strip since the Israeli attacks against the coastal enclave started December 27, a JHCO official said on Tuesday. [...] In addition, a military aeroplane carrying 10,000 ready meals for the Palestinians in Gaza flew to El Arish Airport in Egypt upon His Majesty King Abdullah’s directives. The food shipment is the fourth batch of 80,000 ready meals that will be distributed in coordination with the UN World Food Programme.


21 January 2009

Humanitarian aid agencies poured resources into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday, providing basic essentials to thousands of Palestinians in need of emergency aid after Israel's 22-day offensive in Gaza. Israel, which controls border entry points into Gaza, said it hoped to triple the number of trucks being allowed to deliver assistance to the coastal territory. [...] Dealing with the large number of amputees among the 5,300 injured is also a major priority. The World Food Programme, which provides emergency food assistance to Gaza's non-refugee population, estimated up to 365,000 Gazans are now in need of its help, up from 265,000 before. The group has 4,400 tonnes of food already in Gaza - including wheat flour, cooking oil, chickpeas and sugar - which is being distributed throughout the territory. "We are continuing with distributions and getting what we need across the border into Gaza," said spokesman Robin Lodge. "Next week we'll make a more detailed food security assessment, but at the moment we are making emergency deliveries, including to some of the 40,000 seeking shelter in U.N. compounds." He said Israel was cooperating with allowing food to flow into Gaza, and aid groups were coordinating their work. "Everything has been going very smoothly so far," he said.