Nearly half a million people out of reach in Gaza - Oxfam

Nearly half a million people out of reach in Gaza - Oxfam

18 May 2021

Today, Oxfam said they cannot reach an estimated 450,000 people in Gaza because of the continuing fighting and aerial bombardment. Oxfam staff are trying to resume their humanitarian and livelihood programmes with partners, but the destruction and indiscriminate threat to life make any emergency aid impossible to mount at present. The international agency should be providing food, clean water, sanitation and child protection support but the bombing is making it too dangerous for anyone to leave their homes.

An assessment by Oxfam’s water and sanitation team found that many water wells and pumping stations have been damaged by Israel’s bombardments. These facilities are the only way for people living in Gaza to get clean water and any disruption to them creates immediate distress. Authorities estimate that 40 percent of Gaza water supplies have been affected. People are struggling to secure cash or income to support their basic needs such as food, water, and medicines. Many have been forced to spend their savings or are trying to sell assets to provide for their families. While others, who have lost their homes, have been forced into temporary shelters and, for now, humanitarian actors have not been able to set up systems to properly support them with food, water and sanitation facilities.

Shane Stevenson, Oxfam Country Director for the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, said: “We must remember that Gaza is in the midst of coping with the Covid pandemic too. People need access to water and medicines to halt the spread of the virus, and to hospitals to treat people with severe Covid cases."

As much as 200,000 hectares of agricultural land has been bombed or is otherwise inaccessible to farmers because of the danger of attack. Transport and movement around Gaza is not only unsafe but has been made highly difficult because of the bomb damage to roads and debris from destroyed buildings, with some arterial routes blocked entirely.  Oxfam says that it could take weeks to start meaningful repairs and organise some recovery and resumption of normality for people in Gaza, even if a ceasefire was declared today.

Stevenson continued: “The situation is dreadful but – until the security situation improves enough to properly open up assessments and aid supply lines – things will quickly deteriorate much further. Families are telling us that they are too scared to leave their homes for food and some have already run out of drinking water. The scale of suffering is immense and yet we cannot respond properly. These aerial assaults have taken lives and any sense of safety, but they are also taking away people’s options to cope – to buy food and supplies, and to go about their lives. The people of Gaza are psychologically exhausted, fearful, and exposed. They need peace now in order to pick up the broken pieces of their lives.”

Laila Barhoum, Oxfam’s Policy Advisor in Gaza, said: “When people tell me to ‘stay safe’ during these bombardments, I always think, how exactly? I have no iron dome to protect me, no bomb shelter to take cover in, and no place to flee, because we are pinned in by concrete walls on three sides and the Mediterranean Sea is the fourth."

Oxfam calls for an immediate end to all violence. All parties must comply and adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law. The international community must immediately work to put an end to both the current escalation of hostilities and the underlying human rights violations and systemic policies of oppression and discrimination which gave rise to it, including the Israeli occupation itself.  Prior to this new escalation, Oxfam was already responding under a 14-year air, land and sea Israeli blockade rendering the Gaza Strip “unliveable” according to the UN, at a time when eighty percent of Gaza’s two million residents were already in need of humanitarian aid.

Ends

For interviews, please contact:

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org

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