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Oxfam partners in Gaza are trying to respond to the mounting human cost of the escalating violence.
Amid rising casualties, Oxfam country director Nishant Pandey says Oxfam’s partners on the ground are reporting that vital water and sanitation infrastructure has also been destroyed or badly damaged by Israeli airstrikes. “Services are now struggling to cope and the insecurity is making it difficult to deliver aid,” he said.
Oxfam partners have had to suspend efforts to chlorinate water supplies in Gaza because of the ongoing violence. Pandey says that 90 percent of water in Gaza is already unsafe to drink. Water supplies for 100,000 people have been cut off because a pipeline in Beach Refugee Camp and two wells in Gaza City were hit and destroyed. “Water pumps and sewage plants could stop functioning within days because of severe shortages of fuel,” Pandey said.
An Oxfam-supported hospital that has treated more than 50 casualties from airstrikes so far reports that it will run out of fuel in the next few days, putting life-saving operations at risk.
The hospital’s Medical Director, Ahmed Manna, told Oxfam today: "About 40 percent of the casualties we've treated are children and many others are pregnant women. Our medical staff are working 24-hour shifts because of the need and it's dangerous to go home. If fuel is not available within the next few days the hospital will have to shut down many of its services to 360,000 people in Gaza. This is the only center in north Gaza with a specialized obstetric unit for pregnant women.”
An Oxfam-supported mobile health clinic that provides primary healthcare to several thousand families in northern Gaza yesterday had to suspend all its services because routes there had become too dangerous to travel. A health center run by an Oxfam partner in Beit Hanoun that specializes in pre and post natal care was badly damaged and is now unable to operate. “We are supporting other clinics that are continuing to try to provide services, but many are in areas that have seen heavy airstrikes and local people are scared to try and reach them,” Pandey said.
The sewage plant which serves half of Gaza City has been badly damaged, with 25 million liters of raw sewage spilling into the sea and increasing the likelihood of disease caused by poor sanitation. It is expected to take months to fully repair.
Oxfam partners are assessing whether they can distribute more food vouchers to families in need. Many people are afraid to go to the shops to buy essentials. Hundreds of farmers are unable to get to their fields. Meanwhile, the UN is reporting that at least 32 schools have been affected by shelling, dozens of homes destroyed and more than 2,000 damaged.
Palestinian rockets continue to be fired into Israel, causing damage to schools and other buildings. Several civilians there have been injured, at least one critically.
More than 100 people in Gaza are now reported to have been killed and more than 600 people injured. Many of the casualties are women and children. Many people and services are particularly vulnerable and impoverished by the ongoing blockade of Gaza, which has been in place since 2007.
Oxfam calls on all sides to immediately agree a ceasefire and respect international humanitarian law.