21-09-2007 ICRC News 07/26
Gaza and West Bank – ICRC Bulletin No. 26/2007
Latest report on ICRC activities in the field
Critical humanitarian situation in Gaza
"After three month of almost complete closure, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is critical,” says Angelo Gnaedinger, Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) after his recent visit to the Gaza Strip. The current situation has had a serious impact on the water and sewerage systems, on hospitals and on the economic situation of Gaza's inhabitants.
Water and sewerage
Since mid-2006, military incursions, political instability, import restrictions, extensive damage to Gaza power station, interruptions to fuel supplies and delayed payments have been impairing the operation and maintenance of Gaza's water and sewerage facilities.
"For instance, we carried out emergency repairs at the Beit Lahia wast water reservoir after it burst earlier this year killing five people and destroying 250 houses. We just about managed to address the immediate problem but have not been able to do anything else since,” explained Mr Gnaedinger. When it rains, and that could be soon, we risk facing an even worse situation". There is a similar risk at the Khan Yunis waste water reservoir.
A recent ICRC assessment of nine hospitals in the Gaza Strip concluded that the hospital infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly. Many facilities, diagnostic machines and other equipment are either out of order or in bad condition, as it is no longer possible to maintain them properly. Spare parts are not available on the local market and import restrictions make it impossible for hospitals to use their regular suppliers.
Despite efforts to get humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip, the ICRC remains concerned about the situation. The spare parts and other supplies currently being imported are not sufficient to maintain the infrastructure needed to provide essential medical services for a population of 1.4 million people.
Fewer patients transferred out of Gaza
The ICRC is concerned about the recent fall in the number of patients allowed into Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank for medical treatment. Previously, between 30 and 40 patients per day were allowed to leave Gaza for medical treatment not available in the Strip, but in recent days the transfer of patients has slowed to a trickle.
Continuing economic decline
As a result of the almost complete closure imposed on the Gaza Strip, imports remain extremely limited, while nothing at all can be exported. Most industrial and other businesses have had to close down, further increasing the unemployment rate. This is hitting the economic situation of many families very hard. The agricultural sector is particularly affected by the closure, as most produce is grown for export.
ICRC response to urgent needs in Gaza
Since the beginning of June, the ICRC:
- has started drilling and installing two water wells;
- carried out repairs at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society’s Al Quds hospital, damaged during Palestinian factional fighting;
- repaired water and sanitation facilities at Beit Hanoun hospital;
- replaced the main lift in the surgical department of Shifa hospital and renovated another;
- negotiated the transfer into the Gaza Strip of six generators urgently needed to operate municipal water wells;
- has been negotiating the importation of urgently needed spare parts for a sewage pumping station;
- has studied proposals for sewage disposal in view of the forthcoming rainy season;
- facilitated the transfer of sick and wounded persons from Gaza to hospitals in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank through Erez check point – during the first seven weeks after Hamas took over in June, an average of 30 patients were being transferred per day;
- negotiated with Israel the transfer of urgently needed medicine and medical supplies for use by the Ministry of Health and other medical facilities in the Gaza Strip, plus the transportation of medical supplies between the West Bank and Gaza;
- regularly visited places of detention and interrogation facilities (the ICRC now visits all official places of detention regularly);
- contacted the local authorities’ legal advisor to discuss judicial guarantees for detainees.
Humanitarian window in Nablus (West Bank)
Since 18 September, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been conducting a military operation in Ein Bet El-Maa' Refugee Camp in Nablus city. During the first two days of the operation, the ICRC was in contact with the Israeli authorities to enable evacuation of the sick and wounded.
On 20 September, humanitarian agencies were given two hours to distribute food and water to the camp's inhabitants. Municipal workers were able to repair the water and electricity networks. Four Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulances were present during the humanitarian operation to evacuate people in need of treatment and to support the distribution of food.
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
Bana Sayeh, ICRC Jerusalem, tel : +972 2 582 88 45 or +972 52 601 91 48
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