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Gaza and West Bank – ICRC Bulletin No. 27 / 2007

05-11-2007 Operational Update No 07/27

Latest report on ICRC activities in the field

  Humanitarian Situation in Gaza  

" The situation in the Gaza Strip is on a knife's edge " , says Tony Dalziel, the Head of Sub Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza. " If the closure continues, and if imports continue to be restricted to the bare essentials, much of Gaza's infrastructure will eventually collapse. If this happens, it means that the 1.4 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip have to pay the price for the current crisis. "

Gaza has been increasingly closed off from the outside world since June 2007 resulting in a dramatic decline of trade. The shelves in the supermarkets are starting to empty and the price of goods is rising dramatically. Prices for many basic food items more than doubled between June and October and have again sharply increased in the past three weeks, as stocks dwindle and no new supplies arrive.

Daily Israeli military incursions into the Gaza Strip and sporadic internal fighting have put further strain on Gaza's people who are already struggling with the economic crisis brought about by the closure.

  Import restrictions  

Prior to the clashes in June, more than 9,000 truckloads of goods were imported into Gaza every month. Since June, this has fallen dramatically down to one third, with only basic commodities such as flour, fresh dairy products, sugar, detergents and medical supplies being allowed to enter the Gaz a Strip. Currently only one crossing point for commercial goods is operating.

The restrictions on imports have also negatively affected ICRC programmes as it has taken weeks or even months to bring basic items into Gaza, such as cement and aggregate used to rehabilitate roads, medical equipment, industrial washing machines for hospitals, and spare parts for sanitation. This has put an additional strain on infrastructure.

  Agriculture  

The Gaza Strip has historically relied on healthy exports of cash crops such as carnations, strawberries and cherry tomatoes. The planting season for these important crops was in June of this year. Should the current embargo on exports from Gaza remain in place throughout November 2007 this would likely mean a total loss of sales. According to the Gaza Ministry of Agriculture, the 5,000 farmers relying on agricultural exports for their livelihood stand to lose 12 million US Dollars, in this case.

Other farmers have complained to the ICRC about the loss of farmland and infrastructure because of the ongoing conflict. The farming community in Gaza is made up of around 20,000 families – roughly 12% of the population.

 
  Health  

The ICRC closely supervises the transfer of medical patients, who need treatment outside the Gaza strip. Following a drastic decrease in late September, the number of transfers has begun to go up again recently. However, the ICRC remains concerned about the cases of patients in need of treatment who are prevented by the Israeli authorities from leaving Gaza. The ICRC regularly intervenes with the concerned Israeli authorities on behalf of these patients.

The condition of much of Gaza's hospital infrastructure remains worrying. The state of basic equipment in emergency wards and operating theatres in some of the eight governmental hospitals is reaching a critical stage. The ICRC continuously evaluates the condition of essential hospital infrastructure, fuel and water stocks, supplies of drugs, disposable items, other equipment and food. The ICRC is working to ensure that sufficient fuel stocks are allocated to hospital generators.

  ICRC Family Visit Programme to detainees remains suspended  

The visits by hundreds of family members from Gaza to their relatives detained in Israeli jails remain suspended following a decision by Israeli authorities in June. Apart from lacking direct contact with their families, the detainees are running out of sufficient clothing, since the families used to bring them new clothes on a regular basis. The only means detainees have to maintain contact with their families is through letters.

  In September and October 2007, the ICRC in Gaza  
  • conducted 24 visits to hospitals run by the Ministry of Health in order to assess needs and capacities. As part of the regular assistance of drugs and disposable items to governmental hospitals, the ICRC delivered 228 cubic metres of medical supplies. 

  • facilitated the delivery of essential equipment needed to open the first functioning MRI scanner in the Gaza strip.

  • continued to follow up on people in need of advanced medical care not available in the Gaza Strip. 

  • conducted an assessment to evaluate the level of degradation of basic hospital services (i.e. water, wastewa ter, electricity, laundry, autoclaves, oxygen, vacuum pumps, etc.)

  • continued its visits to detention places. In the past two months, the ICRC has conducted seven visits to places of detention. The ICRC distributed hygienic kits and sweets to 250 detainees on the occasion of the Eid feast.

  • launched an income generating project for 67 women.

  • rehabilitated 28 small fishing boats (Haska).

  • started with the construction of a 1 km agricultural road as part of a cash for work project to facilitate the passage of farmers and students. In another cash for work project, the ICRC removed the rubble of 13 destroyed houses to allow the owners to rebuild their homes.

  • cleaned and levelled some 220 dunums (22 hectares) of land after Israeli military incursions in the Wadi Gaza area.

  • completed maintenance activities at the Palestine Red Crescent Society hospital and offices, which were damaged during the clashes in June. Water and electricity networks have been completely maintained and operated, wood and metalwork on the buildings have also been completed, air-conditioning of the emergency room and operating theatres were maintained and two main elevators of the hospital were renovated.

  • is drilling and equipping 2 wells for domestic consumption.

  • launched a wastewater evacuation project to eliminate the public health threat caused by 50,000 cubic metres of raw sewage accumulated in a storm water basin in Khan Younis town. The project consists of the installation of a mobile pumping station, the construction of 1.5 km of 12 inch pressure lines and the construction of two lagoons of 2 hectares each.

  • held training sessions on the principles of international humanitarian law for three different Palestinian armed groups and their military wings.

  For further information, please contact:
  Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18
  Andrea Koenig, ICRC Jerusalem, tel +972 2 582 88 45 or +972 52 601 91 50
  Iyad Nasr, ICRC Gaza, tel +972 8 282 2644 +972 59 960 30 15
  Yael Segev-Eytan, ICRC Tel Aviv, tel +972 3 524 52 86 or +972 52 275 75 17