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Gaza Food Crisis: UN Urges Opening of Crossing

With Gaza Food Crisis Looming, UN Official Urges Opening of Crossing With Israel

New York, Mar 21 2006 4:00PM

As the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip deteriorates with food and other supplies running short due to the Israeli closure, a senior official of the main United Nations agency helping Palestinian refugees said he sincerely hopes Israel’s opening today of the Karni crossing point is “the beginning of a return to normality.”

“The situation on the streets of Gaza was worse today than it was yesterday as the half hour opening of Karni yesterday afternoon had absolutely no impact on the developing humanitarian crisis,” the Director of Gaza operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), John Ging, said.

“For Gazans, this is the first rationing of bread in living memory,” he added on returning a visit to Karni, saying he was “struggling to be optimistic.”

He expressed his frustration that the crossing was only operating at 10 per cent of its capacity this morning and he called on all involved to open it up fully. “At 10 per cent we are not even meeting today’s needs,” he said.

UNRWA has also run out of fuel in Gaza. “We are operating with what is left in the tanks of our cars,” Mr. Ging said. “Once we get the food in, we will need fuel to distribute it.” He called on the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to “let the fuel in today.”

Yesterday, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) appealed to the Israeli authorities to allow consignments to reach the tens of thousands of people there who depend on outside assistance to survive.

It said the extended closures of the Karni crossing have had a devastating effect on food availability and stocks of wheat flour were already critically low. WFP provides food aid to some 160,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.


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