Humanitarian access to Gaza 'now the priority'

By agency reporter
January 19, 2009

All crossings into Gaza must be immediately opened to deal with the ‘devastating humanitarian disaster’ following the ceasefire, Christian Aid has said.

The need for humanitarian assistance cannot be overstated, said the aid agency. Gazans need immediate food, shelter and support to rebuild their shattered lives, medical assistance is needed for those who have been injured, and many will need access to hospitals outside of Gaza through the crossings.

“Humanitarian agencies must have immediate, regular and unimpeded access through the Gaza crossings for the urgent assistance required to deal with the massive scale of the crisis,” said Janet Symes Christian Aid's head of the Middle East region.

“This access must be guaranteed on a continuous basis regardless of any changes.

“The destruction of food supplies, vehicles, medical facilities, roads and integral infrastructure has made the provision of humanitarian assistance to those in need almost impossible. Even before the onset of the bombing on December 27 the humanitarian situation was already dire.

“The devastating violence we have witnessed in Gaza has cost the lives of over one thousand people and children have borne the brunt of the attacks,” said Ms Symes.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has said that the time has come for a fundamental change in the dynamics of Gaza. A return to the situation prior to the escalation of the crisis cannot be allowed, he said.

Echoing his statement, Christian Aid said that one of the reasons for the current situation was that the international community had consistently failed to hold both parties accountable. Reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law must be investigated.

“The international community must not make the mistakes of the past and should now engage with all actors involved in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to ensure a comprehensive, just and viable solution to guarantee peace and security for all involved.

“Short term solutions and returning to 'business as usual' will only lead to another escalation on a scale far greater than we have recently witnessed,” said Ms Symes.

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