Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza31/7/14
The current hostilities in the Gaza Strip have so far resulted in the deaths of over 1,100 Palestinians, many of them civilians, the wounding of more than 6,233, and more than 200,000 displaced people, many of them seeking refuge in 82 shelters run by UNRWA. 55 Israelis (53 Israeli Defence Force soldiers and 2 civilians) and one Thai national have also lost their lives in the crisis.
Critical infrastructure, including hospitals, health centres, and schools have been severely damaged or destroyed. The depletion of stocks and impediments to access are posing significant challenges for the ongoing humanitarian operation. The lack of adequate protection of health facilities and personnel is also hindering emergency assistance to the sick and injured. An estimated 1.2 million people have very limited or no access to water and sanitation services due to damage to the electricity system and a shortage of fuel to run generators. The Gaza Power Plant, which provides electricity to half of the Gazan population, was reportedly hit during an airstrike on 22 July.
The international humanitarian community is deeply concerned about the lack of respect for the principles of international humanitarian law, and in particular, the need for distinction between military targets and civilians.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East revised Emergency Flash Appeal of 22 July stands at US$115 million. This emergency funding will enable UNRWA respond to the immediate shelter, food, health, and psycho-social needs of affected families; to replenish emergency stocks; and to prepare for carrying out vital interventions that will be required immediately upon cessation of military activities.
The Gaza Strip is home to a population of 1.7 million people, including 1.2 million Palestine refugees. Since 2003, the socioeconomic situation in Gaza has been in steady decline. With the imposition of the blockade in 2007, the situation has plummeted to crisis levels, where it remains today. Years of conflict and closure have left 80 per cent of the population dependent on international assistance. The blockade has decimated lives and livelihoods, resulting in the impoverishment of a once highly skilled and well-educated society.
Irish Assistance to Gaza and the Palestinian people
Last week the Government approved funding of €500,000 to UNRWA’s Gaza Emergency Flash Appeal. Total Irish Aid funding approved to date in 2014 for the Palestinian people amounts to €10 million, and includes support for the work of UNRWA (€5.5million), the Palestinian Authority (€3 million), UN OCHA (€300,000) and civil society organisations (€910,276).
Ireland’s support to the Palestinian people over more than two decades reflects the Government’s longstanding commitment to justice for the Palestinian people and to the development of a viable, sovereign Palestinian state. Total funding has grown steadily in recent years to a total of €78.34 million since 2005. This funding addresses both humanitarian and development needs; providing emergency assistance to the most vulnerable while also supporting the Palestinian Authority in public service delivery and civil society organisations in advocating for human rights.
Ireland has consistently matched our material humanitarian contribution with concrete support to international efforts to find a sustainable political solution to the crisis, and to advocate for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access. We have called for all parties to the conflict to fully respect international humanitarian law, to refrain from the targeting of civilians and for safe and full humanitarian access inside Gaza to allow the distribution of assistance including medicine and medical treatment, water, food, and fuel.
The European Union’s Response
Ireland supports the EU Commission’s decision to allocate a new financial commitment of €5 million to support the emergency operations of key humanitarian partners on the ground in Gaza. This brings to €23.5 million the total amount of humanitarian funding made available by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department ECHO to Gaza. With the escalation of the crisis, ECHO's assistance to Gaza has been redirected to respond to the most urgent needs of the Palestinian population, including food, shelter and health as well as repair of water and sanitation infrastructure.
Since 2000, the European Commission has provided €700 million in humanitarian aid to help meet the basic needs of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian Territory.
Emergency and Recovery Section
Development Cooperation Division
29th July 2014