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

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Oxfam warned today that it cannot reach around 450,000 or more people in Gaza because of fighting and aerial bombardment. The international agency should be providing support including food, clean water and sanitation but the bombing is making it too dangerous for anyone to leave their homes.    Oxfam staff are trying to resume their humanitarian work with its network of partners but the destruction and indiscriminate threat to life make any emergency aid, at the moment, impossible to mount. Prior to this escalation in the conflict, eighty percent of Gaza’s two million residents were already in need of humanitarian aid. 

An Oxfam assessment 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 buy food, water, and medicines. Many have been forced to spend their savings or are trying to sell assets. Many who have lost their homes have been forced into temporary shelters and, for now, humanitarian agencies have not been able to properly support them with food, water and sanitation facilities.

Shane Stevenson, Oxfam Country Director for the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, said:

“The scale of suffering is immense yet we cannot respond properly. Until the security situation improves things will quickly deteriorate further. The 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.  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 people of Gaza are psychologically exhausted and fearful and exposed. They need peace now in order to pick up the broken pieces of their lives.”

As much as 200,000 hectares of agricultural land has been bombed or is currently inaccessible to farmers because of the danger of attack. Transport and movement around Gaza is not only unsafe but now made highly difficult because of the bomb damage to roads and debris from destroyed buildings. Some arterial routes are blocked entirely. Oxfam warns 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 said: “Gaza is also in the midst of coping with the Covid pandemic. People need access to water and medicines and hospitals to halt the virus spread and help nurse sufferers to recovery. Adding conflict on top of Covid feels like a recipe for disaster."

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. 

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For more information or interviews contact Tania Corbett: tcorbett1@oxfam.org.uk or 07824 824 359