23 February 15
A Palestinian man cries in front of his destroyed
house in northern Gaza Strip.
(photo: Oliver Weiken/EPA)
Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), discusses the causes and consequences of the fact that only about 5% of pledged donations have reached Gaza.
[This transcript has been lightly edited.]
Ken Klippenstein: What has been the impact of the failure of donor aid funds to reach Gaza?
Chris Gunness: Let me illustrate that with one simple vignette. I was in Gaza yesterday, and I met a grandfather living in the northern area, which is near the fence with Israel. The man is 62. Two of his grandchildren froze to death (i.e., died of hypothermia) during the storm known as Huda, which was in January.
They are living, 15 of them, in a shack, which I assumed when I saw it from the road was for animals. When I went there, it was a tiny, three-roomed wooden structure covered in leaky plastic. It was raining, so water was flowing in. And that is the very place where baby Salima died on the 21st of January at the age of just 40 days old.
The floor is sand, and on top of that they’ve put threadbare carpets. When you sit on them, they’re so wet and cold [that] it’s no protection whatsoever. Baby Salima basically got rained on all night. There was nowhere for them to go. Her body was blue and trembling. They took her to the hospital, and after one night the doctor phoned up and said that Salima was dead. Another grandchild, a boy, was 50 days old. He was in a UN shelter; it was freezing cold, and he died very suddenly of hypothermia.
There are about 110,000 homes which are either completely uninhabitable or very badly damaged. Assuming each home has between six and eight people, that’s 600,000-800,000 people, approximately. So in terms of both the depth of the suffering and the breadth of the humanitarian impact, it’s immense.