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News, February 2008


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Editorial Note: The following news reports are summaries from original sources. They may also include corrections of Arabic names and political terminology. Comments are in parentheses.

UN official, John Holmes, expresses shock at dire humanitarian situation in Gaza Strip

Holmes shocked at deteriorating conditions in Gaza

[ 16/02/2008 - 09:41 AM ]


John Holmes, the UN secretary general's representative, has said that he was shocked at the deteriorating humanitarian condition in the Gaza Strip, describing it as "grim".

Holmes told a press conference in Gaza that the rate of poverty and unemployment had reached horrific percentages, and that thousands of people were losing their sustenance.

The closed Gaza crossings were worsening the conditions in the Strip, he said, demanding an immediate opening of the crossings to allow freedom of movement for the inhabitants of Gaza and to allow their export-import traffic.

Holmes, who was accompanied by an UNRWA delegation, toured the industrial area near Mintar (Karni) crossing, sewage treatment stations in Beit Lahia, and the Shifa hospital. He then held a meeting with the UNRWA commissioner general, Karin Abu Zaid, who explained in detail the suffering of the Palestinian refugees and UNRWA's efforts to alleviate the Palestinian people's suffering.

The UN official pointed out that the shortage in construction material meant that no construction was possible, adding that such a situation along with shortages in basic materials greatly affected the Palestinian economy.

He noted that goods entering Gaza were only 10% of the usual traffic in January last year while the rate of poverty and unemployment had reached 80%. He underlined that 80% of the Gaza population were basically dependent on UN aid.

Holmes blamed the grim situation in Gaza on the closure of crossings that led to scarcity in foodstuffs. He pointed to the insufficiency of potable water and warned that sewage problems were threatening a health disaster.

Electricity in Gaza was greatly affected by the reduction in fuel supplies and Gaza hospitals were badly affected and many patients should be moved abroad for treatment, the UN official underscored.

He stressed that he would table the situation in Gaza with officials in the PA in Ramallah and in Israel.

UN Humanitarian Chief visits Gaza

Saturday February 16, 2008 03:59 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies saed at imemc dot org

John Holmes, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs at the UN visited Gaza on Friday and called for reopening the borders in the Gaza Strip in order to relief the suffering of the residents. Yet he refused to meet families of detainees imprisoned by Israel.

John Holmes

The closure, which was fully enforced after Hamas movement took over the coastal region last June, crippled that Gaza Strip, its hospitals and facilities and raised unemployment and poverty rates up to 80%, and now those residents became dependent on food aid.

 Talking to reporters in Gaza, Holmes said that these conditions are creating a grim situation and that the people became unable to live with the basic dignity there are entitled.

 He also toured in hospitals in Gaza and spoke with some patients who need dialysis while inspecting the neonatal until. He also visited the industrial zone in Gaza which is now neutral after it once employed 1800 Palestinians.

 This is the first official visit that Holmes conducted as part of his four-day visit which will include a stop in the Israeli Negev town of Sderot.

 His visit to Gaza started by visiting Al Shifa Hospital and the administrators there informed him that the hospital is on the verge of a possible collapse as it is run now by electricity generators as fuel remains unavailable.

They also said that the hospital needs spare parts of medical machines, such as dialysis machines in addition to basic medications.

 Holmes expressed “shock” over the conditions in Gaza and over what he observed during his visit.

 Meanwhile, the Wa’ed Society for defending the rights of the detainees, slammed Holmes for refusing to meet mothers and families of Palestinian detainees imprisoned by Israel.

The society stated that it expected this senior official of humanitarian affairs at the UN to meet the families and listen to their complaints.

The Wa’ed Society that it handed flowers to the sons of the detainees and asked them to welcome Holmes during his visit but he refrained from meeting them.

Holmes also canceled a press conference which was supposed to be conducted at the headquarters of Ramattan News Agency in Gaza, and went instead to the UNRWA headquarters.

The Wa’ed Society said that Holmes’ rejection to meet hose families and children is a deviation from the neutral role of the UN, and demanded him to apologize to the families and to the Palestinian people.

UN official expresses shock at dire humanitarian situation in Gaza Strip

Date: 15 / 02 / 2008  Time:  11:58
Bethlehem - Ma'an –

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Sir John Holmes, said on Friday he was shocked by the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

At a press conference in the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza during a visit to the Strip Holmes said, "I am shocked by the things that I saw today in Gaza, and these things are difficult because of the closure which has led to a lack of food and rising unemployment among Palestinian citizens."

Holmes added that the percentage of citizens who depend on food aid provided by UNRWA is 80%. He also highlighted the problems of sanitation, water and electricity because of the lack of fuel, which has affected the work of hospitals.

He also called on international institutions to increase their work in the Gaza Strip.

Holmes said that he would convey what he saw during his visit to the Gaza Strip to the United Nations.

His visit to the impoverished coastal region came on the second day of his five day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

He was in Gaza to receive a summary report on the humanitarian implications on the Israeli siege on the coastal region and the difficulties faced by UN organizations in providing aid and assistance.

Holmes is due to meet with government official, United Nations staff and delegates from humanitarian organizations, diplomats and delegates from donor nations during his five-day stay in the region.

He is also due to visit the Israeli town of Sderot.


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