14 January 2009
REUTERS/Ismail Zaydah/courtesy www.alertnet.orgThe British Red Cross has launched an appeal in response to the desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza and Israel. The hostilities in Gaza have had a devastating impact upon its population. Hundreds of civilians are dead and thousands injured; others have had to flee their homes but are caught in the fighting. There is an urgent need for medical supplies and equipment, emergency shelter and household items to alleviate the suffering of this escalating humanitarian crisis. Conditions in Gaza were extremely harsh even prior to this recent escalation due to closures and import restrictions over the past 18 months.
The appeal will support the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s ongoing emergency relief and medical operation in Gaza. Palestine Red Crescent volunteers and staff have been on the ground since the beginning of the crisis and are helping the people affected. The British Red Cross has already released £75,000 to support their work.
“We are extremely worried about the increasing number of civilian casualties and civilian buildings, including hospitals, damaged in the fighting,” said Moira Reddick, British Red Cross head of disaster management.
“Hospitals are struggling to cope with the wounded. According to the latest figures provided by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, just under 50 per cent of all wounded people currently arriving at Gaza hospitals are women and children. Most hospitals in the Strip continue to run on generators 24 hours a day to keep life-saving equipment operating without interruption.
“We need more funds to carry on providing emergency relief – including medical supplies and equipment, emergency shelter and household items – to people trapped in this horrific situation.”
Red Cross/Red Crescent response
In Gaza, Palestine Red Crescent hospitals, medical teams and ambulances are responding to the needs of people around the clock. The International Committee of the Red Cross has a surgical team in Gaza helping local doctors treat patients and perform operations.
In Israel, the Magen David Adom (National Society of Israel) is on high alert and is providing first aid and ambulance services.
The Egyptian Red Crescent is helping get medical supplies into Gaza and evacuating critically wounded people to hospital.
The Movement is at the forefront of the humanitarian response, able to act because it is understood to be a strictly politically neutral, impartial and independent intermediary that seeks to meet unmet humanitarian need. These founding principles underpin the Movement’s response. Put simply, the Movement’s neutrality is imperative to accessing the victims.
Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian armed groups are obliged under international humanitarian law to do everything possible to search for, collect and evacuate the wounded and sick, without delay, especially in situations where access for ambulances is not granted for security reasons.
International humanitarian law also stipulates that medical personnel, hospitals and other medical units must be respected and protected. The same holds for medical vehicles, such as ambulances, exclusively assigned to helping the wounded and sick. Attacks on medical personnel are prohibited, as are attacks on facilities used exclusively for medical tasks.
"These obligations apply to Israel and to the Palestinian armed groups fighting in Gaza," said Jakob Kellenberger, the president of the ICRC. "We have already had cases of wounded people dying because the ambulances couldn't reach them in time. If these fundamental rules of international humanitarian law are not respected more people will die who could have been saved."
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