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Gaza A ‘Ticking Time-Bomb,’

Calling Gaza ‘Ticking Time-Bomb,’ UN Official Urges Aid To Avoid Social Explosion

New York, Aug 30 2006

Warning that Gaza is a “ticking time-bomb” marked by conditions so severe a social explosion is inevitable, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator today called on donors scheduled to convene tomorrow in Stockholm to generously fund assistance efforts for the Palestinians.

“You cannot seal off an area, which is a little bigger than the city of Stockholm, has 1.4 million people, of whom 800,000 are youth and children, and then have 200 artillery shells go in there virtually every day, seal off the borders so that it is very hard for them to send anything out, crippling the economy, for people to live or even humanitarian supplies to get in,” Jan Egeland told reporters in New York, calling a “ticking time-bomb.”

He said the conditions will lead to some a social explosion. “Is it in 10 days or is it in 10 months? Of course we don’t know but it is a time-bomb. Nobody visiting Gaza can avoid the fact that it is a totally untenable situation,” he said.

Mr. Egeland, who will attend tomorrow’s meeting in Stockholm, said the previous humanitarian appeal for the occupied Palestinian territories had brought in only 40 per cent of the $385 million being sought. He voiced hope that more money would be forthcoming and that there would be full diplomatic support for “a fresh look at the situation.”

In a related development, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) today spotlighted the plight of women in labour who are being delayed at Israeli checkpoints, forcing roadside births and even causing the death of some women and infants. The agency issued a statement urging access to health facilities and stressing that humanitarian organizations must be allowed to operate freely.

More than 68 pregnant Palestinian women had to give birth at Israeli checkpoints during the last six years, leading to 34 miscarriages and the death of four women, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

A recent report by the Ministry shows that since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000, pregnant Palestinian women in labour are often prevented by Israeli forces from reaching hospitals to receive appropriate medical attention. As a result, 10 per cent of women who wished to give birth at medical centres have had to spend two to four hours on the road before reaching a hospital, while 6 per cent spent more than four hours. The normal time, before the intifada, was 15 to 30 minutes.

“These figures underline the need to put an end, once and for all, to the agony of pregnant Palestinian women held at Israeli checkpoints,” said UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid. “It is urgent to facilitate access by pregnant women to life-saving services, as stipulated by international humanitarian law.”

UNFPA has been helping pregnant women avoid suffering at the checkpoints by training health personnel and equipping them with delivery kits to provide services within their communities. It has also formed local community support teams to assist health providers and raise awareness of the availability of delivery services.

The agency continues to work with its partners on providing the Gaza population with essential emergency services and supplies, including by restoring health facilities, purchasing reproductive health supplies and other essential drugs to support the Ministry of Health, and providing psychological and clinical services to women and their families.


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