JERUSALEM -- World Vision, the international Christian humanitarian organization, is transporting food, blankets and other relief supplies to communities in Gaza and the West Bank that would be hardest hit by curfews and travel restrictions if war breaks out in Iraq.
"War in Iraq would devastate ongoing aid work," says Dan Simmons, director of World Vision's work based in Jerusalem. "Based on the previous Gulf War, we expect Palestinians to be facing severe travel restrictions, longer curfews and even eviction from their homes," says Simmons.
Those restrictions also could interrupt the work of humanitarian agencies, especially if expatriate aid workers are ordered by their embassies to leave the country.
World Vision has more than 2,600 relief kits, valued at $120,000, in areas that would be most difficult to reach, including the northern parts of the Gaza Strip and Rafah on the Palestinian Egyptian borders. Local staff and church partners would distribute the kits, each of which contains blankets, hygiene items and canned and dried food -- enough to last a family of seven for one month.
The Palestinian economy has been devastated for nearly two and a half years, Simmons says. Israeli military operations in the West Bank and Gaza alone have cost 220,000 Palestinians jobs due to curfews and travel restrictions. Gaza, in particular, has been hard hit. Unemployment there is more than 50 percent; the poverty rate -- people living on less than $2 a day - is estimated at 70 to 85 percent.