from Gaza Action Ireland, Nov 26 2013
‘Health catastrophe’ looms in Gaza
THE ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza risks turning into a health catastrophe if urgent action is not taken, Gaza Action Ireland has warned.
Earlier this month, UN humanitarian coordinator James Rawley called for such action in the wake of the shutdown of Gaza’s only power plant for generating its own electricity.
More recently, Filippo Grandi, the outgoing commissioner-general of the UN’s main agency in Gaza, UNRWA, said “Gaza is quickly becoming uninhabitable”.
Gaza Action Ireland (GAI), whose members visited the besieged Palestinian territory earlier this year, said the outages, which have reduced Gaza to, at best, a few hours of electricity per day, are affecting hospitals as well as the water and sewage systems.
“With the largest waste-water treatment plants stopping due to lack of fuel, Gaza’s residents are faced with sewage flowing down the streets,” GAI spokesperson Zoe Lawlor said. “Children, having waded through sewage to get to school, are having to study in the dark.”
Hospitals are also facing severe shortages of medicines and equipment, with the Ministry for Health saying a “health catastrophe” is imminent.
Israel’s siege of Gaza, already crippling Gaza’s economy, has now been tightened by the new Egyptian regime. Many tunnels, the Strip’s lifelines, are now closed, halting the inflow of basic food and fuel commodities, many of which are banned by Israel from being legally imported.
According to Oxfam, “80 percent of people … receive international aid, 57 percent of households are food insecure, exports are virtually non-existent, many basic services are barely functioning, and unemployment is over 35 percent and rising.”
With Palestinians in Gaza only able to leave through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt intermittently, their freedom of movement is at the whim of Israel and Egypt.
To compound the illegal siege, Israel makes regular military incursions into Gaza’s waters and airspace, thus violating the ceasefire in place since last year’s major military assault. Farmers and fishers are regularly attacked while trying to make a living and airstrikes are a common occurrence.
“Collective punishment is illegal under international law yet Israel maintains its blockade of Gaza with no sanction from the international community,” Ms Lawlor said.
GAI is lobbying TDs and has called upon Irish politicians to exert some leverage to ensure that Israel is made to abide by international law, rather than being rewarded with upgraded relations and with lucrative EU research programmes.