Conditions in Gaza were extremely harsh even prior to this conflict due to checkpoint closures and import restrictions over the previous 18 months. The 22 days of hostilities killed at least 1,300 Palestinian civilians and injured 5,500. Thirteen Israelis were killed, of which three were civilians.
According to the UN, more than 50,000 Palestinians were made homeless and 400,000 had no running water. Thousands of buildings were destroyed or severely damaged.
Essential infrastructure in the Gaza Strip suffered severe damage, with dire consequences for public health. In particular, there was a lack of safe drinking water. Hospitals were overwhelmed and needed continued support. The presence of unexploded ordnance also affected the economic recovery and reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.
After the ceasefire took effect in the Gaza Strip, the scale of the devastation and the need for humanitarian aid became ever more apparent. Entire families lost everything and required urgent help meeting such basic needs as shelter, food, water and medical care.
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How we helped
In Gaza, Palestine Red Crescent hospitals and medical teams responded to the many needs. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) supported hospitals in Gaza by providing medical supplies, generators, fuel and a surgical team.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies donated £205,000 to deliver basic relief items to meet the needs of 800 people in the form of food and non-food relief, and emergency shelter. It also supported the Egyptian Red Crescent Society, which helped get medical and relief supplies into Gaza and evacuated critically wounded people to hospital.
The British Red Cross contributed £85,000 to the Palestine Red Crescent’s relief effort and offered assistance to Magen David Adom. It also had six delegates with the ICRC in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Delivering humanitarian aid
The ICRC provided around 80,000 people whose homes were damaged or completely destroyed, who are currently in UN shelters or hosted by relatives or friends, with everything from mattresses and blankets to kitchen utensils, hygiene kits and thick plastic sheeting for temporary roofing.
In the Zaytun area, the ICRC and the Palestine Red Crescent (PRCS) provided essential supplies for nearly 19,500 people whose houses were fully or partially destroyed, and plastic sheeting for 50,000 people. In addition PRCS assisted 500 people in Khan Younis who left their homes and took refuge in PRCS premises.
As at 28 January, the ICRC counted 1,500 fully destroyed and 1,000 partially damaged houses. PRCS established a camp in Jabaliya to assist 500 families who lost their homes.
Around 3,500 people whose homes were badly damaged in the Tel Al-Hawa area of Gaza City were given tarpaulins to cover roofs or set up tents, and plastic sheeting to replace shattered windows.
ICRC health staff distributed disposable items and medical equipment to the biomedical engineering department of the Ministry of Health and to Najjar and Ahli Arab hospitals.
Hygiene kits were distributed to Al Quds hospital in addition to 280 family water kits and 204 bottles of water to Al Quds, Al Shifa, Al Wia’am, Patients' Friends, Al Awda and Al Wafa hospitals.
PRCS developed a rehabilitation programme for the 5,450 injured to cope with their new situation and to provide them with their urgent needs, such as crutches, wheelchairs, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and psychological support.
The PRCS blood transfusion service collected 800 blood units from different cities and villages in the West Bank and sent 560 blood units to Gaza through the ICRC.
In Israel, the Magen David Adom (National Society of Israel) set up a humanitarian clinic on the Israeli side of the border, with voluntary specialist doctors and nurses treating the wounded.
Between 27 December 2008 and 26 January 2009, Magen David Adom (MDA) maintained 200 life-saving vehicles which were dispatched to 1,180 sites hit by missiles in the Western Negev and communities surrounding the Gaza Strip.
MDA personnel treated and evacuated a total of 186 casualties, including four fatalities and four severely wounded people. MDA blood services also collected 22,111 blood units throughout the operation.
The ICRC closely monitored the issue of people unaccounted for following the conflict in Gaza. It contacted the authorities both in Israel and in Gaza to obtain access to prisoners captured during the conflict.
The ICRC helped bring ten ambulances donated by the Swedish Red Cross into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing for delivery to the Palestine Red Crescent. The organisation also had surgeons and nurses in Shifa hospital helping local doctors treat patients and conduct surgical operations.
During the hostilities, the ICRC and the Palestine Red Crescent evacuated 2,400 wounded people and 1,100 civilians caught in the crossfire. They also collected 750 bodies.
Red Cross statement
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement issued a public statement on 12 January 2009 raising concerns about the impact of the conflict on civilians and calling on all parties to the conflict to allow medical workers access to the wounded.
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