Gaza: humanitarian needs remain acute as devastation is revealed

Published: 21 January 2009 0:00 CET

Now that the shelling and gunfire have stopped, and Israeli armed forces have pulled out of Gaza, displaced Palestinians are going back to their homes, or what is left of them. Horrified at the extent of the devastation, they wander in the ruins as they try to retrieve personal belongings from the remains of their houses, and grieving for the family members and friends they have lost.

More than 1,300 Gazans were killed and at least 4,500 wounded in the hostilities. The toll could rise, as more bodies continue to be pulled from the rubble. The population of Gaza will need to rely on international assistance for food, water, shelter and other basic necessities for months to come.

“Humanitarian needs remain extremely acute,” explains Ola Skuterud, representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), based in Ramallah. “Although trucks laden with assistance are now allowed into Gaza, food, water, hygiene articles, medicines and medical supplies, as well as fuel, are still urgently needed. Far, far more is required to meet the needs of tens of thousands of people who have nothing left, no belongings, no livelihoods and no home.”

“In addition, psychological support programmes must be set up to help thousands of traumatised children and adults overcome the suffering they endured over the past three weeks,” he adds.  

Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) medical staff and volunteers are reaching previously inaccessible areas, in particular those which suffered the most destruction, to try and find survivors, treat the wounded, pull corpses out of the ruins, and assess needs.  Additional PRCS ambulances are being sent from the West Bank to Gaza to facilitate the transportation of patients and replenish the stock of destroyed vehicles.

Repair work continues at the Red Crescent's Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City, which was hit by shelling on 15 January. It is hoped certain services can resume in the next few days.

The Palestine Red Crescent has revised the preliminary emergency appeal it launched last week. It is now asking for 19.6 million US$ (22.3 million Swiss francs / 15.1 million Euros) to cover the costs of medicines and disposable items, relief goods, personnel, fuel, communication and running costs.  

For more information, please click on: http://www.palestinercs.org

In Egypt, the IFRC has been supporting Red Crescent Society (ERCS) teams over the past few weeks. They have been transporting dozens of injured people from Gaza to medical facilities in Egypt, as well as facilitating the entry of hundreds of metric tonnes of relief goods and medical items into Gaza, in close coordination with the Egyptian authorities and the ICRC. 

In addition, the ERCS has been stocking emergency goods to prepare for a possible influx of people from Gaza. To support the ERCS, the International Federation initially released 350,000 Swiss francs (310,000 US$/230,000 Euros) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).

“The current budget will be extended to bring additional support to ERCS through the deployment of staff for contingency planning and training, as well as possible supplementary warehousing capacity. These DREF funds are being used to anticipate for imminent crisis,” notes Pablo Medina, IFRC Operations Coordinator in charge of the ERCS operation. “We need to be fully prepared for a possible population movement from Gaza into Egypt. In addition, it is expected that relief assistance through Egypt will continue at the same or at an increased pace in the coming weeks, which further justifies our logistics support to the Red Crescent.”

On 18 January, Magen David Adom in Israel (Israel’s Red Cross National Society), opened a medical clinic to treat Palestinians in need. It is set up beside the Erez check point.  Staffed by Magen David Adom paramedics and volunteer doctors, it has a laboratory, X-Ray and ultra-sound facilities and a pharmacy. It is designed to provide primary health care, but it will also be able to recommend transfers for medical treatment in suitable Palestinian or Israeli hospitals.


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest humanitarian organization, with 190 member National Societies . As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, our work is guided by seven fundamental principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. About this site & copyright