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Gaza: Overseas Aid

Volume 474: debated on Monday 31 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of (a) the ability of international humanitarian organisations to operate in the Gaza Strip in light of current Israeli military operations in the territory and (b) the humanitarian situation in Gaza. (192243)

The operations by the Israel Defence Force in Gaza between 27 February and 3 March made working conditions more difficult for humanitarian organisations. The Palestinian Ministry of Health was particularly stretched to deal with the large number of casualties; a clinic, pharmacy and ambulance of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society were destroyed; and two UN Relief and Works Agency schools were damaged. However, some humanitarian supplies and fuel continued to get into Gaza during this period. International humanitarian organisations currently report that they are able to import items required for immediate relief (e.g. food and medicine), but that items required for longer-term activities continue to encounter long delays or are not getting in at all (e.g. the UN Children's Fund supplies for schools and some spare parts for fixing the water supply system).

We remain gravely concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Essential services, including water and sanitation, are close to breakdown and a number of essential medical items and drugs are out of stock. I have discussed this with the Israeli Defence Minister, Palestinian President and the UN Secretary-General. Department for International Development officials are monitoring the ongoing situation.