Israeli restrictions force suspension of food aid in Gaza – UN relief

“If the new restrictions in Gaza continue, I fear we could see real hunger emerge for the first time in two generations,” UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Peter Hansen said, appealing to Israel to lift the measures. “Israel’s legitimate and serious security concerns will not be served by hindering the emergency relief work of the United Nations.” Under normal circumstances UNRWA delivers some 250 tons of food aid per day in Gaza alone as part of a wider programme of emergency assistance to refugees initiated shortly after the outbreak of strife in the West Bank and Gaza in September 2000. Efforts to persuade Israel to lift the restriction on the transport of UNRWA’s empty food containers out of Gaza have so far failed, forcing the suspension of delivery of 11,000 tons of food from Ashdod port to avoid a bottleneck which would result in prohibitive costs. Stocks of rice, flour, cooking oil and other essential foods that UNRWA provides to refugees reduced to poverty or otherwise affected by the 42-month-long humanitarian crisis have been fully depleted. UNRWA noted that it was not alone in facing chronic obstacles to the flow of humanitarian assistance. All UN agencies in the West Bank and Gaza have confronted similar experiences and in a joint statement last week called without success on Israel to loosen restrictions in Gaza.

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