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Gaza: UN concerned over humanitarian conditions

UN agencies voice concern over humanitarian conditions in Gaza Strip

United Nations agencies today expressed concern at the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip, at a time when more than half of the area’s power supply has been knocked out, and roads and water pipes have also been damaged by Israeli air strikes.

Some 130,000 people have been without water for the past few days and the agencies said their top priority is the restoration of the fuel supply for sanitation pumps in Gaza, with only a few days’ fuel left if supplies are not resumed.

They added that they were also worried over supplies of essential medicines and food, with some medicines already being rationed because of shortages.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said that, because of the random closure of border crossings between the Strip and Israel, it had been unable to get enough food into Gaza. The current supply of wheat flour would only be enough to cover the current caseload of 160,000 people for about 10 days.

WFP spokesman Simon Pluess told a news briefing in Geneva that the Agency was deeply concerned that the recent kidnapping of the Israeli soldier and the subsequent incursion into Gaza might exacerbate the existing humanitarian crisis, especially in view of the increased border closures.

The non-payment of government workers, which affected around 1 million people, and the outbreak of avian influenza, which had decreased the availability of poultry, also threatened food security. It was WFP’s view that it was in everyone’s interest to avoid an escalation of the humanitarian crisis, he said.

Many government workers have not been paid since international donors cut off aid after the Hamas movement’s election victory earlier this year, saying the group must first commit to non-violence, recognize Israel and accept previous agreements and obligations.

Mr. Pluess noted that without the use of refrigerators, due to the cut-off of electricity, perishable foods and medicines were affected, and bakeries could not produce bread, a major element in the Palestinian diet.

The population’s coping strategies were being pushed to the very limit, with many families living on just one meal per day, he said. As a result, WFP had this month begun to increase its food aid to 600,000 people. But with the random closure of border crossings, it could not get enough food into Gaza.

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