Posts Tagged ‘humanitarian aid’

Pakistan flood victims face harsh winter

December 23, 2010
by: Brian McAfee, People’s World, December 20,  2010

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Photo: A woman and her two children stand in their makeshift shelter in the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Their home was destroyed in the floods that have affected an estimated 2.5 million of the province’s 3.5 million residents.
( UN Photo/UNICEF/ZAK/CC)

Reports indicate that the hardships from Pakistan’s earlier monsoon floods have been exacerbated by the onslaught of winter.

The floods affected 20 million people — more than 10 percent — of Pakistan’s population of just over 180 million people.

Yet, as the temperature dips, hundreds of thousands of displaced children and adults are susceptible to pneumonia and other cold-related diseases. According to Director of the National Institute of Child Health (Pakistan) Professor Jamal Raza, the flood victims becoming ill from cold related causes, particularly children, could almost double from the current number. Many are living in non-winterized tents, and there are shortages of dry firewood/fuel and other materials, such as adequate clothing, needed to create warmth.

Further, many of the flood ravaged areas from this year’s monsoon remain covered in water and millions are still displaced. Concurrently, many displaced are farmers whose fields are still flooded, and they have no source of livelihood. Food distribution is difficult to carry out under the circumstances.

Concerning the children, Raza says that it will be an uphill battle to save many of the them as they are malnourished, and have experienced a great deal of weight loss due to poor diet. Moreover, he says, their  capability for immunity is very low and, accordingly, they are susceptible to a wide range of respiratory diseases. Consequently, there is an urgent need for blankets, quilts and better shelter to fight the cold, as well as provisions for the obvious nutritional and medical needs.

Reports out of Pakistan indicate a further danger caused by the floods: the release of stored toxic chemicals into the flood waters. An article in New Scientist reports the floods released an estimated 3,000 tonnes of toxic chemicals into the environment. The chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) include several insect repellents, such as DDT. At the same time, many of them do not biodegrade in nature, and are purportedly linked to hormonal, developmental and reproductive disorders. Pakistan’s floods have awakened some nations and scientists to this ongoing threat as changes in weather patterns become more evident.

Reputable organizations currently active in the relief effort in Pakistan include OXFAM, AmeriCares and United Nations Refugee Agency. If you consider helping the people of Pakistan through a  contribution to any one of them, be sure to specify that the donation is for Pakistan flood relief.

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From Istanbul: Outrage Over a Massacre on the High Seas

June 2, 2010

By Phyllis Bennis, The Huffington Post, June 2, 2010

Israel has decided that it is better to be perceived as savage than as weak. In its initial attack on the boats carrying human rights activists and humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip, Israel’s commandos killed at least nine human rights activists and injured perhaps as many as eighty or more. All those aboard the ships, which were attacked and seized pirate-style in international seas far beyond the legal limits of Israel’s own territorial waters, were arrested and/or deported.

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Viva Palestina: Navigating Egypt’s Obstacle Course

July 15, 2009

By Soozy Duncan  | Information Clearing House, July 14, 2009

The Viva Palestina U.S. convoy has been facing barrier after barrier in recent days despite having initially hoped to cross into the Gaza Strip this morning. The Egyptian government, collaborator in Israel’s severe blockade for the past 2 years, has set up a course of administrative obstacles which will delay the group’s entry into Gaza.

George Galloway, the British Member of Parliament who organized this effort as well as the first Viva Palestina caravan which drove from London to Gaza in March, sent a letter to President Mubarak of Egypt prior to the departure of the U.S. convoy. This letter informed the president that over a million dollars had been raised with the intention of purchasing vehicles, medical supplies and other humanitarian aid to bring to Gaza. Viva Palestina was also in contact with the Egyptian ambassadors in London, Washington, DC and Tripoli, Libya, who, at their request, were provided with a list of the names and passport numbers of all convoy participants.

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MIDEAST: Aid Agencies Slam Gaza Blockade

June 22, 2009

By Mel Frykberg | Inter Press Service

RAMALLAH, Jun 20 (IPS) – Forty international aid agencies and NGOs have released a joint statement condemning Israel’s blockade of Gaza, to mark the second anniversary of the coastal territory being hermetically sealed off from the outside world.

“We, United Nations and non-governmental humanitarian organisations, express deepening concern over Israel’s continued blockade of the Gaza Strip which has now been in force for two years.

“These indiscriminate sanctions are affecting the entire 1.5 million population of Gaza, and ordinary women, children and the elderly are the first victims,” read the statement, to mark the anniversary Wednesday.

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The slow death of Gaza

November 24, 2008

The collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population is illegal. But international law was tossed aside long ago

It has been two weeks since Israel imposed a complete closure of Gaza, after months when its crossings have been open only for the most minimal of humanitarian supplies. Now it is even worse: two weeks without United Nations food trucks for the 80% of the population entirely dependent on food aid, and no medical supplies or drugs for Gaza’s ailing hospitals. No fuel (paid for by the EU) for Gaza’s electricity plant, and no fuel for the generators during the long blackouts. Last Monday morning, 33 trucks of food for UN distribution were finally let in – a few days of few supplies for very few, but as the UN asks, then what?

Israel’s official explanation for blocking even minimal humanitarian aid, according to IDF spokesperson Major Peter Lerner, was “continued rocket fire and security threats at the crossings”. Israel’s blockade, in force since Hamas seized control of Gaza in mid-2007, can be described as an intensification of policies designed to isolate the population of Gaza, cripple its economy, and incentivise the population against Hamas by harsh – and illegal – measures of collective punishment. However, these actions are not all new: the blockade is but the terminal end of Israel’s closure policy, in place since 1991, which in turn builds on Israel’s policies as occupier since 1967.

In practice, Israel’s blockade means the denial of a broad range of items – food, industrial, educational, medical – deemed “non-essential” for a population largely unable to be self-sufficient at the end of decades of occupation. It means that industrial, cooking and diesel fuel, normally scarce, are virtually absent now. There are no queues at petrol stations; they are simply shut. The lack of fuel in turn means that sewage and treatment stations cannot function properly, resulting in decreased potable water and tens of millions of litres of untreated or partly treated sewage being dumped into the sea every day. Electricity cuts – previously around eight hours a day, now up to 16 hours a day in many areas – affect all homes and hospitals. Those lucky enough to have generators struggle to find the fuel to make them work, or spare parts to repair them when they break from overuse. Even candles are running out.

There can be no dispute that measures of collective punishment against the civilian population of Gaza are illegal under international humanitarian law. Fuel and food cannot be withheld or wielded as reward or punishment. But international law was tossed aside long ago. The blockade has been presented as punishment for the democratic election of Hamas, punishment for its subsequent takeover of Gaza, and punishment for militant attacks on Israeli civilians. The civilians of Gaza, from the maths teacher in a United Nations refugee camp to the premature baby in an incubator, properly punished for actions over which they have no control, will rise up and get rid of Hamas. Or so it goes.

And so what of these civilian agents of political change?

For all its complexities and tragedies, the over-arching effect of Israel’s blockade has been to reduce the entire population to survival mode. Individuals are reduced to the daily detail of survival, and its exhaustions.

Consider Gaza’s hospital staff. In hospitals, the blockade is as seemingly benign as doctors not having paper upon which to write diagnostic results or prescriptions, and as sinister as those seconds – between power cut and generator start – when a child on life support doesn’t have the oxygen of a mechanical ventilator. A nurse on a neo-natal ward rushes between patients, battling the random schedule of power cuts. A hospital worker tries to keep a few kidney dialysis machines from breaking down, by farming spare parts from those that already have. The surgeon operates without a bulb in the surgery lamp, across from the anaesthetist who can no longer prevent patient pain. The hospital administrator updates lists of essential drugs and medical supplies that have run out, which vaccines from medical fridges are now unusable because they can’t be kept cold, and which procedures must be cancelled altogether. The ambulance driver decides whether to respond to an emergency call, based on dwindling petrol in the tank.

By reducing the population to survival mode, the blockade robs people of the time and essence to do anything but negotiate the minutiae of what is and isn’t possible in their personal and professional lives. Whether any flour will be available to make bread, where it might be found, how much it now costs. Rich or poor, taxi drivers, human rights defenders, and teachers alike spend hours speculating about where a canister of cooking gas might be found. Exhaustion is gripping hold of all in Gaza. Survival leaves little if no room for political engagement – and beyond exhaustion, anger and frustration are all that is left.


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