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Gaza: Politics and Government

Volume 474: debated on Thursday 3 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the humanitarian situation in Gaza; and what estimate he has made of the number of people (a) at risk of starvation, (b) without access to basic medical treatment and (c) without access to safe drinking water; and if he will make a statement. (197974)

The Department for International Development (DFID) is deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Currently there is no danger of starvation but an estimated 1.1 million Gazans—80 per cent. of Gaza's population—is at least partly dependent on food aid. Food aid provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the World Food Programme (WFP) covers 60 per cent. to 80 per cent. of calorific need of those that receive it, with people left to buy the remainder.

Palestinians currently have access to basic medical treatment and medicines continue to enter Gaza. However, the health care system is under strain as infrastructure and equipment deteriorates. The World Health Organization reports that 85 essential items are nearly or completely depleted, largely because of procurement problems.

The water and sanitation sector throughout Gaza is facing severe difficulties. Gaza has traditionally had problems with the purity of its drinking water but the current situation is exacerbated by power cuts affecting pumping stations; 90 per cent. of mains water is polluted and up to 60 million litres of raw or poorly treated sewage are being discharged into the Mediterranean sea each day. Figures are unavailable for the number of people affected by the polluted water.

This situation has not been caused by a lack of response or support from the international community, rather the continued restrictions on access to Gaza.

To help ease the situation the UK provided £15.45 million in March 2008 through the European Commission's PEGASE mechanism, supporting essential services and providing allowances to 77,000 key workers. To support the work of UNRWA DFID provided £15.6 million in 2007-08.