12 Oct

Closure of Gaza crossings draws concern from Ban Kimoon

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13 July 2007Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for all crossings into the Gaza Strip to be re-opened to allow humanitarian supplies, relief workers and commercial goods to pass through, voicing increasing concern over the territory’s deteriorating economic situation. “The continued restrictions on Gaza will have a severe humanitarian impact and can only cause further suffering to the people there,” Mr. Ban said in a statement released by his spokesperson.UN humanitarian officials warned earlier this week that the restrictions are threatening the economically sustainability of the territory, where more than 1.4 million live in a 360-square-kilometre area.In today’s statement, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson cited new World Bank figures showing that, in the last month alone, the closing of nearly 3,200 businesses in Gaza has left over 65,000 people unemployed.“If what is left of Gaza’s economy is allowed to collapse, poverty levels, already affecting an estimated two-thirds of households, will rise further and the people of Gaza will become near totally aid-dependent,” the statement added.Mr. Ban is calling for the Karni crossing to be opened immediately to allow commercial imports and exports to pass through, as well as the Rafah crossing, so that over 4,000 Palestinians stranded in Egypt can re-enter Gaza.In a related development, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) working for Palestine refugees called today for aid to be rushed to Gaza.“The violence in Gaza, coupled with the tight closures, has led to a deteriorating humanitarian situation,” the agency’s Commissioner General Karen AbuZayd said at a meeting in Cairo with Amr Musa, the Arab League’s Secretary General.“We have identified nearly $30 million worth of emergency projects for which we need urgent funding and I make a special appeal to Arab donors to contribute,” she said, adding that almost half of the money will be put towards job creation initiatives while the rest will fund assistance programmes and shelter repair and reconstruction.Ms. AbuZayd noted that high unemployment and poverty rates – 36 per cent and nearly 90 per cent, respectively – reflect Gaza’s economic deterioration.UNRWA will provide employment opportunities, creating approximately 640,000 days of work in the agency’s facilities as well as with community-based organizations and the private sector, to assist the most needy refugee families in the area.The agency also appealed for almost $8 million for emergency cash assistance to allow refugees to meet basic needs and to bolster food aid, as well as for $9 million for shelter repair and reconstruction.“People are living in dire conditions,” the Commissioner General said. “The recent violence has damaged or destroyed thousands of buildings and there is an urgent need to have these repaired.”

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