Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
by Stephen Lendman
Besieged Gazans endure deplorable conditions. No end of their suffering looms.
On July 23, humanitarian aid worker Laura Grant headlined her London Guardian
op-ed “Aid in Gaza: We don’t have the words to deal with this level of suffering.”
She came to Gaza for the first time after working in Occupied Palestine for almost a year. When crisis strikes like last summer’s Israeli aggression, international workers are largely evacuated. “(L)ocals are left to play the grim hand they’ve been dealt,” Grant explained.
How they manage is beyond what any outsider can imagine. Internationals come and go. Gazans remain besieged, trapped in rubble, without essentials most people take for granted or enough of them.
July 23 was the first day Grant could talk to Gazans about what they lived through last summer. “I am their connection to the outside world; the one person they can talk to who is not also dealing with horrors of her own,” she said.
She knew facts and figures about last summer’s devastation, but she “couldn’t prepare” herself for “(s)tories of leaving homes with children in arms, not knowing where to go.”
“Of losing loved ones because they couldn’t be evacuated for proper medical treatment.” Enduring three wars in six years with likely more to come - an endless cycle of Israeli inflicted violence. Entrapped in the world’s largest open-air prison because they’re not let out - or able to visit friends and family elsewhere in Palestine.
“How do we process (endless) injustice of the suffering of others,” Grant asked? How do people handle great deprivation?
Gaza hospitals seem forever on the verge of collapse. How they manage is hard to explain - with acute shortages of vital medicines, equipment, other supplies, fuel and electricity.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra said “Shifa Hospital, Kamal Adwan hospital, the European Gaza Hospital, and Rantisi Hospital could stop offering services because they are about to run out of fuel. The current situation is the worst since the Ministry of Health was created…”
Gaza gets electricity from Egypt. Its one power plant was badly damaged in last summer’s war. It operates only at partial capacity.
Hospitals depend heavily on private generators. Blockade severely limits fuel supplies and other essentials. Patients needing treatment not available locally can’t exit Gaza to get it elsewhere - without hard to get Israeli permission taking time when urgency demands immediate care.
Summer 2014 Israeli aggression destroyed or damaged 17 of 32 Gaza hospitals and 50 of 97 primary health centers, according to UN figures.
Post-war, medical professionals and other hospital staff went on strike protesting unpaid salaries - for lack of enough funds.
UN authorities cut humanitarian aid for Gaza. About 13,000 UN Relief and Work Agency (UNWRA) employees went on strike against cost-cutting measures.
They rallied outside UNESCO’s Commissioner-General office holding signs saying “Stop the injustice. Refugee rights.” “The UNWRA is the only witness to the refugee catastrophe.”
They demonstrated in response to new agency rules - imposing staff cuts, postponing the start of the academic year, one-year unpaid leave, and larger classroom sizes in UN-run schools.
Monday was supposed to be opening day. They remain closed - unavailable for 220,000 Palestinian children dependent on them. UNWRA claims inadequate funding to operate normally, saying:
“The agency is facing its most serious financial crisis ever: currently, (it) has a funding shortfall for core activities. (It needs) $366.6 million for its 2015 emergency operations in Gaza, including $127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective center management, $105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and $68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work.”
It needs new funding sources to provide normal services. On May 1, 1950, it began operating - providing “direct relief and works programs for” around five million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
It’s a vital lifeline for people dependent on the vital services it provides.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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