Gaza operations grinding to a halt, warns UN relief agency in Palestinian territory

25 August 2006 – The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) says a lack of access in and out of the Gaza Strip is forcing its operation there to come to a standstill, as shortages of food, fuel and construction supplies jeopardize every element of its relief effort.

In a statement released yesterday, UNRWA said it has just one week’s supply of fuel left. The agency noted that it will not be able to start distributing food to 830,000 people next week unless the Karni crossing re-opens. The principal goods terminal, Karni has been closed since 15 August.

Another crossing between Egypt and Gaza at Rafah opened today for the first time in almost a week, enabling thousands of Gaza residents to cross in both directions, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which expressed the hope that the crossing would remain open.

UNRWA said almost no construction supplies have entered Gaza since late June. Some 194,000 students are expected to return to school next week, and the agency stated it has run out of supplies to repair school buildings damaged in military operations over the last two months.

“Children are once again paying the price in this conflict,” said John Ging, UNRWA’s Director of Operations in Gaza, who described the overall humanitarian living conditions there as “miserable, frustrating and still deteriorating.”

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), meanwhile, said the environment of “extraordinary violence, insecurity and fear” has led to a rising demand for psychosocial assistance among children. It adds that the situation has also severely curtailed opportunities for safe play and recreation over the summer holidays.

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