A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Only 22 % of truckloads entering Gaza pre-blockade allowed in by Israel last week
Three-quarters of the damage caused during Israeli military operation “Cast Lead” still not repaired 17 months on
Oxfam condemns Monday’s attack on the aid flotilla that resulted in the killing of a number of passengers and it links the tragedy to the failure of Israel and the international community to lift the three year blockade on the Gaza Strip.
“We are shocked at the appalling use of violence and the killing of civilians which occurred when the Israeli forces took over the Gaza Flotilla in international waters”, said Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam. “Tragedy struck as the international community failed to put enough pressure on Israel to put an end to the crippling policy of blockade. This flotilla would not have been needed, had the Israeli blockade not debilitated Gaza’s economy and prevented desperately needed humanitarian supplies from entering the territory.”
Contrary to what the Israeli government states, the humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza is only a fraction of what is needed to answer the enormous needs of an exhausted population. For instance, Oxfam estimates that 631 trucks of humanitarian supplies were permitted entry into Gaza last week by the Israeli authorities. This constitutes only 22 percent of the weekly average (2,807 truckloads) that entered during the first five months of 2007, before Israel’s imposition of the blockade. Meanwhile, almost no exports have been allowed out of Gaza.
Despite a very modest relaxation on the entry of some supplies into Gaza in the past months, entry of major essential goods like materials for reconstruction remains in limited quantities or is barred. As a result, three-quarters of the damage and destruction caused to civilian infrastructure during Israeli military operation “Cast Lead” has still not been repaired or reconstructed 17 months on.
According to the UN, more than 60 percent of families are food insecure and are reliant on food assistance, and four out of five Gazans rely on aid to survive. There are daily electricity cuts in Gaza and the water network is working far below capacity. Some families with as many as seven members are consuming the same amount of water per day meant to meet the needs of just one person. Some patients have even died while awaiting permission to seek treatment out of the Gaza Strip.
This new tragedy strikes as we will soon commemorate the start of the fourth year of blockade. “We strongly condemn the killing, injury and holding by Israel of any passenger, and any use of excessive force against civilians on board a boat that was reportedly bringing direly-needed relief and everyday items into Gaza," said Hobbs.
“Considering that the detailed facts of the situation remain unclear, Oxfam calls for a full and independent inquiry to ascertain what took place and ensure accountability,” Hobbs said. “The Israeli operation appears to have violated a number of basic rules of International Law. This comes on top of the blockade that inflicts collective punishment on the population, which is illegal under International Humanitarian Law," Hobbs added.
The forced isolation of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza, which fragments Palestinian society and artificially creates poverty and de-development, must come to an immediate end, as must all attacks on civilians on both sides. Israel and the international community must work together to immediately lift the blockade by fully opening all the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip. These crossings are equipped with technology to prevent smuggling of weapons.
“It is time for people in Gaza to receive more than promises and see their rights respected,” said Hobbs.