Many in Scotland have watched the increasing humanitarian crisis in Gaza over the last four weeks with horror and grave concern.
The situation is now acute, and the member agencies of the Disasters Emergency Committee have launched a Gaza Crisis Appeal on the basis of massive unmet humanitarian need.
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes and are in desperate need of food, water, shelter and medical care. Many displaced families are still in crowded shelters run by the UN and others. 1.4 million people have no or very limited access to water or sanitation, due to damage to infrastructure and the lack of electricity affecting pumping and processing plants; and over 65,000 people have seen their homes severely damaged or destroyed. The UN says the health system in Gaza is on the verge of collapse, with 24 health facilities damaged and acute shortages of medicines and medical supplies. The entire population of Gaza is now without adequate access to health services.
In Gaza, a territory smaller than the island of Arran but with a population of 1.8 million people (larger than the population of Greater Glasgow and the Clyde Valley) there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. 1,843 Palestinians have been killed including 1,354 civilians of whom 415 were children. 67 Israelis have been killed including 3 civilians. DEC member agencies have called on all parties to the conflict to respect International Humanitarian Law, including not targeting civilians or aid workers. Schools and hospitals should not be used for military purposes and nor should they be military targets.
Services in Gaza were severely stretched even before the conflict, and 80% of the population were dependent on aid. Getting supplies into Gaza has been a challenge over the last seven years because of the blockade, but humanitarian agencies have always been able to get some goods across the border, and even now some aid is getting through border crossings in both Israel and Egypt. It is also possible to buy some supplies in Gaza itself. Any ceasefire, even if only temporary, allows a dramatic increase in delivery of aid.
DEC member agencies (many of whom have worked there for decades) and their partners in Gaza have provided first aid and ambulances, medical supplies to hospitals and clinics, food and water, and provided household items for people who have fled their homes.
• Islamic Relief has provided food to 10,000 people who have fled their homes.
• Oxfam is helping around 80,000 people, including using tanker trucks to provide safe water to over 58,000 people
• British Red Cross partners are supporting emergency medical services.
• Member agencies are already planning to support the restoration of key civilian infrastructure including water and sanitation.
It is clear that the blockade has had a significant humanitarian impact and has greatly increased the vulnerability of the civilian population of Gaza to the shocks caused by any escalation in the conflict. The DEC is a humanitarian fundraising organisation and does not take any advocacy positions. However, Save the Children and many other DEC member agencies as well the UN have called for the lifting of the blockade.
Ultimately, the only sustainable and just solution will be a political one. But for now, this desperate crisis in Gaza requires a huge response, which we hope that many in Scotland will be part of, in order that the basic needs of many thousands of people may be met as quickly and effectively as possible.
To make a donation to the DEC Gaza Crisis Appeal visit http://www.dec.org.uk, call the 24 hour hotline on 0370 60 60 900, donate over the counter at any high street bank or post office, or send a cheque. You can also donate £5 by texting the word SUPPORT to 70000
Statistics from UNOCHA, 6/8/2014