Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gaza aid being stalled by border closings

Israel has closed border crossings into Gaza for the past nine days. The closings are in response to motor fire from Palestinians that were launched into Israeli territory.

But the United Nations fears that the closings will prevent food aid from reaching the people of Gaza. Israel has agreed to let truckloads of food into Gaza today, but will then shut the boarders down again, leaving future shipments in doubt. Supplies are already empty in the Gaza strip.

The Associated Press, via the International Herald Tribune, does a good job on explaining how food aid is distributed in Gaza.

Among the items UNRWA has not been able to get into Gaza are fire extinguishers for its facilities, tires for its vehicles, toner for the photocopiers in its schools and clinics and materials for a blind children's center, said UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness.

More than half of Gaza residents are refugees and their descendants from the 1948-49 war over Israel's creation and many still live in squalid shantytowns.

The Israeli blockade has plunged the crowded territory even further into poverty, while keeping construction materials out and Gazans locked in. About 80 percent of Gaza's 1.4 million residents depend on food aid, according to U.N. figures.

Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner said the crossing was closed in response to rocket fire into Israel from Gaza. No decision had yet been made about when to reopen the crossings but the government was considering the U.N.'s position, Lerner said.

Besides providing food aid in Gaza, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency runs more than 220 schools and provides health care to more than 1 million Palestinians.

The U.N. distributes food aid to Gazans in cycles. Families are categorized by size and each group has a window every two or three months when it can pick up its food.

When the U.N. is forced to stop distribution, the tens of thousands of people eligible to get their food during that period will get nothing, said U.N. officials. This will delay the cycle, meaning that all food recipients will have to wait longer for their next installment.

No comments: