Gila Svirsky, www.coalitionofwomen4peace.org4/21/2004
You were signature number 2,750 on the petition “Open the Gates to Allow Food into Gaza”, and you added after your name, “This won’t do any good, but here goes.”
Thankfully, Alice, you were mistaken: The gates to Gaza have now been re-opened to regular UNRWA emergency food shipments, following three harrowing weeks of sporadic delivery. Celebration, or at least great relief, is in order.
I asked a senior UNRWA official what he thought made a difference, and he replied, “Everything — the people who signed the petition, the Israelis and Palestinians who spoke out against it, the internationals who expressed their indignation, the letters to the officials — everything together made the difference.”
So thank you, Alice, wherever you are, and thank you to the 6,685 others who signed the petition and sent letters or made phone calls. It’s a drop in the ocean of what remains to be done, but for 600,000 men, women, and children in Gaza, it means that tomorrow they won’t go hungry.
UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near
website: www.unrwa.orgPress Release No. HQ/G/07/2004
21 April, 2004
UNRWA Recommences Emergency Food Distributions in the Gaza Strip
Gaza – The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees today recommenced the distribution of emergency food aid to some 600,000 refugees in the Gaza Strip.
UNRWA’s emergency food programme was suspended on April 1 following restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities at the sole commercial entry point for Gaza. Those restrictions prevented UNRWA from transporting empty freight containers out of Gaza, causing the Agency a bottleneck that prevented 11,000 tons of food from entering from the Israeli port of Ashdod and costing UNRWA around $130,000 in fees.
For most of the last two weeks, the Israeli authorities have operated workable arrangements – as is required under international humanitarian law – at the Gaza entry point. These have permitted the Agency to bring sufficient amounts of humanitarian aid into the Strip. The Agency now has enough food in Gaza to provide for the needs of the refugees for the next 30 days.
However, the future of the emergency food assistance programme remains in doubt because the Israeli authorities are now insisting that holes must be drilled in the two-inch wall cavities of containers leaving Gaza so that they can be searched by mini-camera. The containers are not the property of UNRWA and such procedures will add to the costs and the delays in providing food to the needy.
UNRWA delivers around 250 tons of food aid per day to the refugees in Gaza as part of a wider programme of emergency operations. These operations are designed to alleviate the worst of the economic hardship felt by the refugees since the start of the strife in the West Bank and Gaza in September 2000. Around two-thirds of the population of the Gaza Strip, 80 per cent of whom are refugees, are now living below the poverty line and are increasingly dependent on international humanitarian assistance.
A donation of US$30 can provide one month’s food parcel for a family of eight containing 50kg of flour, five kg of rice, five kg of sugar, two liters of cooking oil, one kg of powdered mil and five kg of lentils. You can make a donation by visiting http://www.un.org/unrwa/emergency/donation/index.html and paying by credit card, or by sending crossed cheques to UNRWA liaison offices. Alternatively you can send cheques payable to UNRWA to its bank accounts. Please contact us about a nearest bank account from your location.
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