UNRWA is struggling to feed Gazans

Organization feeds 1.1 million people and has only 10 days' worth of food left.

UNRWA in gaza 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
UNRWA in gaza 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza returned to full operations on Sunday, but warned that it had food stores for only 10 days to feed the 1.1 million people who are dependent upon it for survival, according to John Ging, the organization's head in Gaza. "We have 10 days or so of reserve stocks here," said Ging in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post from Gaza. UNRWA will run out of supplies if Israel does not reopen the Karni crossing into Gaza, which has been closed since last week due to the violence in Gaza, Ging said. He said he had been working with Israel to find a way to get more food into the Strip. Israel has said that it wants to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, but an army source said the IDF had yet to figure out how to open the crossings from a safety or technical perspective. Part of the problem, the source said, is that infrastructure was damaged on the other side during the fighting between Fatah and Hamas last week. "We have already been in productive discussions with the Israeli authorities, who are sincerely committed to insure that the humanitarian food stocks will come through. I am confident a solution will be found," said Ging. "There is a lot of apprehension as to what is next, it is difficult to contemplate that it could get worse," said Ging. Kevin Kennedy, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, warned that Gaza would run out of perishables such as dairy products and fuel with in a matter of days if a solution for the passage of goods into Gaza were not found. The last week has not been easy on UNRWA, which lost two staff members in crossfire between Fatah and Hamas. Another two were wounded. The violence forced UNRWA to close three of its five food distribution centers and seven of its 18 health clinics. Ging said that while the Hamas takeover and the subsequent closure of the area had created a logistical crisis, it had not immediately driven up the number of people in need of UNRWA's services. Poverty in Gaza had already increase dramatically in the last year as the result of the collapsed economy, Ging said. In early 2006, he said, UNRWA fed 630,000 people out of a population of 1.4 million, he said. Now it feeds 860,000 refugees and another 250,000 non-refugees for a total of 1.1 million, Ging added. At best, he said, his organization's efforts have mitigated the worst effects of the poverty created by events in Gaza over the last year. "We have been saying for many months that the dynamics of the poverty and all the other pressures that are on the population here are conducive to the explosion that we just saw," said Ging.