UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said yesterday that large regions of the Gaza Strip are a ‘disaster area’.
Furthermore he called on the world community to lift the Israeli blockade in order to allow recovery efforts to proceed, in a special statement.
He reported that ‘Large swathes of northern Gaza are a disaster area with water as far as the eye can see. Areas around Jabalia have become a massive lake with two metre high waters engulfing homes and stranding thousands.’
Gunness added: ‘Four thousand UNRWA workers are battling the floods and have evacuated hundreds of families to UNRWA facilities. Our sanitation, maintenance workers, social workers and medical staff have been working through the night and round the clock to assist the most vulnerable, the old, the sick, children and women.
‘We have distributed five thousand litres of fuel to local pumping stations, but the situation is dire and with the flood waters rising, the risk of water borne disease can only increase. This is a terrible situation which can only get worse before it gets better,’ his statement added, referring to major fuel shortages across the Gaza Strip that have dramatically worsened in the last few months.
Gunness also addressed the issue of the blockade saying: ‘When all this is over, the world community needs to bring effective pressure to end the blockade of Gaza.
‘Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster.
‘But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man-made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this.
‘And of course it is the most vulnerable, the women, children and the elderly who will pay the highest price of failure to end the blockade.’
The floods are making the crisis situation in Gaza absolutely unbearable.
Fuel shortages had already brought daily life in the Gaza Strip to a grinding halt since early November, after power plants and water pumps were forced to shut down due to lack of fuel, forcing Gazans back to before the industrial age.
Gaza has been without a functioning power plant since the beginning of November, when the plant ran out of diesel fuel as a result of the tightening of a seven-year-long blockade imposed on the territory by Israel and Egypt.
The plant itself was only reopened last year after it was targeted and almost destroyed by an Israeli airstrike during Israel’s infamous 2006 all-out assault on the Strip.
The power plant generates around 30 per cent of the Gaza Strip’s electricity supply, while the rest comes from Israel and Egypt.
Until July of this year, the tunnels to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the territory amidst the otherwise crippling Israeli blockade. The blockade has been in place since 2006, and it has limited imports and exports and led to a major economic decline and wide-reaching humanitarian crisis.
Gaza Strip energy officials have blamed Egypt for destroying numerous tunnels linking the Gaza Strip and Egypt in recent months.
As the rest of the world celebrates Christmas the people of Gaza sit in the dark, in shelters, freezing and cold, hungry and menaced by floods and the diseases that such flooding brings with it.
Trade unions, and workers and youth in the UK, the EU and US must demand that their governments rush all necessary aid to the people of Gaza, and order Israel to lift the blockade.
Trade unions throughout the world must mount a blockade of Israel, and boycott all Israeli goods, and services worldwide, to force Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza.
This blockade of Israel must not be lifted until a Palestinian state is established, free of all settlements, with Jerusalem as its capital, and with Palestinians throughout the world having the right to return.