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UN official: Gaza is 'on the edge of a health disaster'

August 4, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are facing a “massive health disaster” caused by the continuous Israeli war which has been ongoing for four weeks, the UN warned yesterday.

The Humanitarian Coordinator of the UN in the Occupied Palestinian Territories James Rowley also said that there is no safe place that people in the Gaza Strip can take shelter in.

Speaking from the Gaza Strip, Rowley said: “I talked to the Gaza residents who fled their homes once, twice and three times. They asked me: Mr Rowley, you are a UN official, tell us where we shall go?”

He continued: “I was obliged to tell them that I had no answer! There is no safe place in Gaza; therefore, we are facing a real humanitarian disaster here.”

The official said that 250 UN officials in Gaza, with their families, are now seeking shelter in the UNDP in Gaza.

Previously, the UN said that about 460,000 Palestinians were displaced because of the Israeli war in the Strip. This is about one quarter of the total number of residents in Gaza.

In addition, UNRWA said it is struggling to fulfil the needs of all the displaced civilians. For that reason, the UN launched an urgent appeal to raise $187 million to buy beds and the basic needs of the displaced in order to face possibilities of the spread of diseases in UN shelters.

Rowley said new diseases, which had disappeared long time ago in Gaza, are likely to spread fast amid the deteriorating health situation and bad hygiene in the UN shelters.

“We have no basic services, we have no sewage services, no electricity and water,” he said. “There is a shortage in clean water and medicines. We are on the edge of a real health disaster.”

Hundred thousands of Palestinian children are in an urgent need of psychological treatment. The department of humanitarian affairs in the UN said that there is an urgent need for pesticides; especially in the disaster-struck areas such as Rafah and Shujaya.

Rowley said that the UN is committed to providing for the humanitarian needs of those in the Gaza Strip, but the need for lifting the seven year siege on Gaza to be lifted. “This is important,” he said.

“We are strongly committed to helping the residents of Gaza have a normal life,” he said.

He continued: “This of course includes stopping the kill and to provide for their humanitarian needs. This requires restrictions imposed on the goods exported from and imported to the Strip be lifted, allowing fishermen to sail and farmers to access their lands.

“All these are basic needs. The Palestinians have been deprived from them for a decade.”