IFRC


Helping the people of Gaza is a humanitarian imperative

By Tommaso Della Longa, IFRC

Dr Francesco Rocca, Vice President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), recently undertook a mission to witness the effects of 50 days of conflict in Gaza, and to see the work of the Palestine Red Crescent Society. He travelled with IFRC Under Secretary for Programme Services Walter Cotte and Dr Younis Al Khatib, President of the Palestine Red Crescent Society. Amid the ruins, Dr Rocca said the suffering of children in the region was a real cause for concern. "We have met many children severely injured and traumatized," he said. "We need to focus our efforts on providing comfort and ensuring a better future."

It is estimated that 1,000 face the future with a permanent disability, while up to 373,000 will need long-term psychosocial support. During a visit to the Red Crescent's psychosocial support centre, Dr Rocca read stories and letters written by children with the help of volunteers. Their common dream was to return home, clear the dust from their homes and play with their toys. Initial assessments suggest that up to 100,000 people will need shelter support as their homes have been either destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

During the mission, a permanent ceasefire was announced which Dr Rocca said would allow the Red Crescent to may a full assessment of future requirements and to begin scaling up the operation to meet the massive needs. "The needs here are enormous," he said. "I urge the international community - including our Movement - to mobilize greater support for the people of Gaza." He also said that the blockage on the Gaza strip had to be lifted in order to facilitate effective humanitarian access.

In Gaza, at least 2,101 people have been killed and 10,224 injured. Approximately 70 percent of them were civilians. Assessments by the IFRC show that more than 475,000 displaced Palestinians, more than one quarter of the population, lack basic means of survival. Moreover, a  large number of explosives - remnants of the fighting - litter civilian areas, adding to the danger.

Dr Rocca said he was impressed with the work of volunteers and staff from the Palestine Red Crescent Society who had been at the forefront of the response from the beginning, dealing with complex emergencies in the most challenging environment. "The volunteers here represent the true value of our seven Fundamental Principles, something that we need to remember in our daily work at home," he said. Two volunteers died in the course of their duties and a further 46 were injured. Attacks also damaged society hospitals and ambulances, affecting the volunteers' ability to respond.

"As a Movement, we have to continue advocating to ensure that international humanitarian law is respected. All attacks against civilians and civilian objects are prohibited under this law," said Dr Younis Al Khatib. He echoed Dr Rocca's call for more support from the international community.

Dr Rocca said the mission gave him a new perspective on the crisis. "It was both moving and enlightening," he said. "There is so much beyond what we have seen on the television.

"We have a humanitarian imperative towards the people here. They expect us - I expect us - to respond appropriately to their needs. Red Crescent volunteers are working to provide food, water, temporary shelter and medical services. But as winter approaches, our priority is to meet the most pressing needs, and also to plan for rebuilding lives and livelihoods."

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By Tommaso Della Longa, IFRC

 

Dr Francesco Rocca, Vice President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), recently undertook a mission to witness the effects of 50 days of conflict in Gaza, and to see the work of the Palestine Red Crescent Society. He travelled with IFRC Under Secretary for Programme Services Walter Cotte and Dr Younis Al Khatib, President of the Palestine Red Crescent Society. Amid the ruins, Dr Rocca said the suffering of children in the region was a real cause for concern. "We have met many children severely injured and traumatized," he said. "We need to focus our efforts on providing comfort and ensuring a better future."

It is estimated that 1,000 face the future with a permanent disability, while up to 373,000 will need long-term psychosocial support. During a visit to the Red Crescent's psychosocial support centre, Dr Rocca read stories and letters written by children with the help of volunteers. Their common dream was to return home, clear the dust from their homes and play with their toys. Initial assessments suggest that up to 100,000 people will need shelter support as their homes have been either destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

During the mission, a permanent ceasefire was announced which Dr Rocca said would allow the Red Crescent to may a full assessment of future requirements and to begin scaling up the operation to meet the massive needs. "The needs here are enormous," he said. "I urge the international community - including our Movement - to mobilize greater support for the people of Gaza." He also said that the blockage on the Gaza strip had to be lifted in order to facilitate effective humanitarian access.

In Gaza, at least 2,101 people have been killed and 10,224 injured. Approximately 70 percent of them were civilians. Assessments by the IFRC show that more than 475,000 displaced Palestinians, more than one quarter of the population, lack basic means of survival. Moreover, a  large number of explosives - remnants of the fighting - litter civilian areas, adding to the danger.

Dr Rocca said he was impressed with the work of volunteers and staff from the Palestine Red Crescent Society who had been at the forefront of the response from the beginning, dealing with complex emergencies in the most challenging environment. "The volunteers here represent the true value of our seven Fundamental Principles, something that we need to remember in our daily work at home," he said. Two volunteers died in the course of their duties and a further 46 were injured. Attacks also damaged society hospitals and ambulances, affecting the volunteers' ability to respond.

"As a Movement, we have to continue advocating to ensure that international humanitarian law is respected. All attacks against civilians and civilian objects are prohibited under this law," said Dr Younis Al Khatib. He echoed Dr Rocca's call for more support from the international community.

Dr Rocca said the mission gave him a new perspective on the crisis. "It was both moving and enlightening," he said. "There is so much beyond what we have seen on the television.

"We have a humanitarian imperative towards the people here. They expect us - I expect us - to respond appropriately to their needs. Red Crescent volunteers are working to provide food, water, temporary shelter and medical services. But as winter approaches, our priority is to meet the most pressing needs, and also to plan for rebuilding lives and livelihoods."




La Fédération internationale des Sociétés de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge constitue, avec ses 190 Sociétés nationales membres, le plus vaste réseau humanitaire du monde. En tant que membres du Mouvement international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge, nous sommes guidés dans notre travail par sept Principes fondamentaux: humanité, impartialité, neutralité, indépendance, volontariat, unité et universalité.