UN humanitarian chief visits Gaza in wake of military operation

21 January 2009

21 January 2009

New York, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes arrived in Jerusalem today for a five-day mission in the region to review humanitarian needs in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in the wake of the recent military operation in the Gaza Strip.

Civilians in Gaza bore the brunt of the conflict, with 412 children and 100 women killed and 5,450 people wounded. Ten of thousands of people were rendered homeless after their areas were damaged or destroyed during bombing raids. Mr. Holmes plans to stress the need to facilitate quick delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. He is scheduled to have meetings with both Israeli and Palestinian officials to exchange views on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Mr. Holmes will visit several sites in Gaza to examine the extent of damage to buildings and infrastructure, including United Nations properties. He will also visit facilities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), where tens of thousands of civilians sought shelter after fleeing their homes during the military operation in Gaza. He plans to tour Shifa Hospital, where many Palestinians wounded during the fighting have received care.

The Under-Secretary-General is also due to have meetings with United Nations staff in
Jerusalem and Gaza, as well as representatives of other humanitarian agencies, civil society and donors.

Mr. Holmes is also due to make a one-day visit to Egypt for meetings with UN officials, the Red Cross Movement and representatives from other humanitarian agencies.

The Palestinian Ministry of Heath estimates that 1,314 Palestinians were killed in the 23 days of the military operation in Gaza. The bombing and shelling caused extensive damage to civilian facilities throughout the Gaza Strip. Supplies of basic food and fuel, and the provision of electricity, water and sanitation services remain critical.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has warned that there will be long-term consequences of the latest conflict because livelihoods and assets of tens of thousands of Gaza civilians have been affected.

For further information, please call:
Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1917 892 1679,
[email protected];
Nicholas Reader +1 212 963 4961, mobile +1 646 752 3117,[email protected],
John Nyaga, OCHA-NY, + 1 917
367 9262, [email protected];
Elisabeth Byrs OCHAGeneva,+41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570, [email protected]

OCHA press releases are available at http://ochaonline.un.org or www.reliefweb.int.

Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
Help send a Palestine refugee child to school