oPt: Negotiating humanitarian relief for Gaza

8 December, 2011
Iyad Yousif Alfairy shares a shelter with 14 family members in Jabalia refugee camp. Credit: EWASH
Iyad Yousif Alfairy shares a shelter with 14 family members in Jabalia refugee camp. Credit: EWASH

Iyad Yousif Alfairy shares his shelter in Jabalia Refugee Camp in North Gaza with 14 family members. Like many in the camp, Alfairy’s shelter is rundown, overcrowded and in desperate need of repair. During the rainy season, manholes overflow and raw sewage floods in from the streets. “We pray for the day this problem is solved,” he says. He is particularly worried for the health of his children.

But the land, air and sea blockade on Gaza, which was tightened in July 2007 following Hamas’ takeover of the coastal territory, severely restricts the importation of supplies required to repair damaged houses and water and sewage systems.

OCHA’s Access Coordination Unit (ACU), established in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in 2008, plays a vital role in negotiating with the Government of Israel for humanitarian staff and goods to enter Gaza to assist families like Alfairy’s.

In recent weeks, the Government of Israel has approved the entry of materials for four water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects, with a total value of over US$3.75 million. One of these projects will manage water runoff at Jabalia Refugee Camp, where Afairy lives.

However, the situation remains challenging. “Even though Israeli authorities announced the easing of the blockade on Gaza in June 2010, this has had little impact on most projects submitted to them so far,” says Jean Gough, UNICEF Special Representative to the oPt, on behalf of aid agencies working on WASH issues. “We welcome the recent approval of four projects. However we are still waiting for 13 others, worth US$ 74.5 million, to be approved. Over 1.4 million Palestinians are waiting to benefit from these projects."