As the violence engulfing Gaza enters its third week, Palestinians throughout the small coastal territory are being affected in ever-growing numbers. The ground offensive launched by the Israeli military only compounds the destruction and suffering already caused by shelling from land, air and sea. With hundreds dead and thousands injured, the number of displaced Palestinians fleeing their homes in search of safety has grown exponentially. As of 21 July, over 100,000 Palestinians – about 6 per cent of Gaza's entire population - have sought shelter with the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), crowding into 70 schools.
The increasing scale of the crisis and the urgent needs of a growing number of civilians require greater assistance from UNRWA. As our estimate of the number who will soon require support rises to 150,000 – three times the 50,000 originally projected - the Agency is now appealing for a total of US$ 115 million.
Palestinians trapped in the third round of conflict that Gaza has seen in less than six years will require substantial support to meet immediate human needs and needs that will arise after hostilities have ceased. To provide those sheltering in UNRWA facilities, mainly schools, with food and important non-food items such as hygiene kits and basic household items, UNRWA seeks US$37.4 million. The bulk of the overall funding required, US$60 million, will help Palestinian families repair or reconstruct homes damaged in the conflict. UNRWA is also preparing to be able to begin recovery operations as soon as possible.
The successive rounds of conflict they have experienced have had a terrible impact on the children of Gaza; according to the UN reports, already some 72,000 children will require immediate psychosocial support. UNRWA seeks US$ 2.7 million to provide this support to children and adults at each emergency shelter, while increasing provision in schools and community-based organizations across Gaza after the end of hostilities.
UNRWA is grateful for current pledges of monetary and in-kind assistance amounting to over $56 million from the following countries and partners: the United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Finland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Chile, Islamic Relief USA, as well as UN Agencies, several other private partners and individual donors. These early pledges of support represent 48 percent of our requirements in the $115 million Flash Appeal.”
The current conflict only compounds the devastating effects of years of blockade and isolation, which have rendered Gaza increasingly dependent on UNRWA services. At the same time, the blockade contributes to the recurring violence of which the current events are the latest manifestation; the blockade must be lifted.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl said, " What is happening in the Gaza Strip, the relentless violence, loss of life and mass displacement, can only be described as shocking. No people, under any circumstances, should be made to endure it. The reality being created before our eyes is unsustainable, for the Palestinians themselves and for the region as a whole. We cannot, and will not, abandon the people of Gaza and I call on the international community to come to their aid at this time of great need."