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UN appeals for emergency funding, Gaza residents

UN agency appeals for emergency funding for hard-pressed Gaza residents

With 70 per cent of Gazans relying on food aid, the main United Nations humanitarian agency for Palestinian refugees is calling on donors to fund its emergency appeal, which it has already almost doubled to over $170 million to feed 900,000 people in light of the current humanitarian crisis.

“For someone not living in the Gaza Strip, daily life today is hard to imagine,” the UN Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) said in its latest update on the Gaza Strip following the outbreak of renewed fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants.

“Sonic booms shatter the night skies, making sleep all but impossible. Waking in the morning, mothers cannot prepare breakfasts, nor children shower and wash - there is so little water. Leaving home, children find the streets and alleys en route to schools strewn with sewage. Delivery of water and maintenance of sewage disposal is dependent upon electricity – a sporadic commodity these days.”

UNRWA increased its 2006 emergency appeal from just over $95 million earlier this year after Israel stopped the transfer of Palestinian value added taxes (VAT) and other countries suspended contributions to the Palestinian Authority (PA) following the Hamas election victory in January.

Israel and international donors are insisting that Hamas must commit itself to principles of non-violence, recognize Israel’s right to exit, and accept previous agreements and obligations, including the UN-backed Roadmap plan providing for two states living side by side in peace.

“With crossings into Gaza from the outside world closed for most of the past two weeks, food prices for staples have increased more than 10 per cent,” UNRWA said. “Family breadwinners, many unemployed for months and without savings, have no choice but to turn to international aid agencies such as UNRWA to put food on the table.

“Seventy per cent of Gazans now rely on food assistance. UNRWA is providing the basics – flour, rice, oil, sugar, beans and whole milk - to 900,000 individuals,” it added.

Overall, UN agencies, including UNRWA, have raised the 2006 Consolidated Appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory by 80 per cent, from the originally budgeted $215 million to $385 million.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said today the frequent closing of the crossing points from Israel into Gaza as well as the ongoing hostilities put enormous strain on the population, but the passage of commercial, food and fuel supplies last Sunday had helped to alleviate the situation slightly.

There was a real need for a humanitarian corridor so that relief items could have a priority for entry over commercial goods into Gaza and WFP was asking for permanent and unhindered access for humanitarian personnel and relief goods, spokesman Simon Pluess told a news briefing in Geneva.

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