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United Nations Secretary General: the situation in Gaza is tragic.

Gaza / PNN -- As the United States swore in Barak Obama, for whom the Israelis said they withdrew from Gaza, the United Nations Secretary General entered the Strip through the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing in the north's Beit Hanoun.To the press Ban Ki-moon said late this afternoon, "The situation in Gaza is tragic." Thousands of people remain in United Nations' schools that became shelters, still wondering about missing family members. Appalled by the destruction, the UN leader added that he would work for "peace, an end to occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state."As thousands of people are homeless in the devastated Strip, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported last night that there are over 46,234 homeless Palestinians because that is the number remaining in shelters.Since declaring a ceasefire Israeli forces directly killed two Palestinians while two children were killed from the remnants of explosives. At least 1,314 Palestinians are dead, as the OCHA reports.Of the 5,300 Palestinians injured, 1,855 are children and 795 are women. "It is still not possible to determine the number of Palestinian male civilian casualties," says the UN office.Regarding shelter the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs wrote, "There are reports of widespread destruction of houses, infrastructure, roads, greenhouses, cemeteries, mosques and schools in the Az Zaitoun, Tufah, Sha'af, Jabalia, Tal Al Hawwa, Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia areas in the northern Gaza Strip. According to the International Committee of the International Red Cross, "a number of areas, including parts of Beit Lahia, looked like the aftermath of a strong earthquake", while field workers from the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights report that "entire urban blocks have disappeared" in North Gaza and the eastern suburbs of Gaza City. Construction materials must be allowed into Gaza without delay in order to allow repair and reconstruction, writes OCHA. Since June 2007, construction materials have not been permitted entry into Gaza, adversely affecting UN projects, in particular UNRWA and UNDP which were forced to suspend more than $100 million in construction projects due to lack of materials. Those displaced have started returning home, the OCHA stated in its latest report, As of the evening of 18 January, 4,662 displaced persons had left the emergency shelters. However, 46,234 Palestinians remain in the UNRWA shelters throughout the Gaza Strip. CARE International provided 7,500 blankets on 18 January, and another 6,570 blankets on 19 January, to cover the shortage of blankets in UNRWA shelters. UNRWA reports remaining shortages of tinned meat, over 22,000 mattresses, and 23,000 blankets and hygiene kits for shelters.In hopes of returning some sense of balance to emotionally battered children, the second semester for 200,000 children in UNRWA schools was scheduled to begin on 17 January, but will now begin on Saturday. Last semester exams are being waived the Ministry of Education indicated today.Concerning health, the OCHA wrote, "Primary health care is resuming following the cease-fire, except in those clinics that have been destroyed. Antenatal care resumed on 18 January with 70 percent attendance. On 19 January, the MoH started distribution of vaccines to its 34 primary health care clinics that provide vaccination services. Hospitals and intensive care units remain overwhelmed due to the number of war injured who still require treatment. WHO reports that 21 medical facilities have been damaged since 27 December. The Al Quds PRCS Hospital and Al Fata Hospital, both of which were damaged by shelling on 15 January, remained closed on 18 January. Repairs to the hospitals are on-going."The World Health Organization is warning of the risk of an outbreak of epidemic disease due to unrecovered bodies, many now severely decomposed, and due to the sewage flowing in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia.Handicap International estimates that up to 50 percent of people injured during the latest Israeli military operation have sustained severe injuries such as fractures, amputations, burns and head injuries that will require rehabilitation in order to prevent permanent disability. Others face a significant risk of becoming permanently disabled due to secondary complications such as infected wounds, contractures or secondary amputations. Handicap International warns that, "Early rehabilitation, along with specific prevention information, mobility devices, and basic health care such as appropriate and timely wound dressings, is essential to prevent most of these complications. Post-injury rehabilitation is critical in order to prevent these war-wounded persons from becoming disabled." On water, sanitation and electricity the OCHA writes, "Since 18 January, CMWU and GEDCO technical teams are working to assess and repair damage to the electricity, water and wastewater networks. An initial assessment in northern Gaza has revealed that at least 22 local transformers were damaged in North Gaza, as were six kilometers of copper cable coming from Israel. The Gaza Power Plant is still only partially functioning due to local damage in power lines and the shortage of industrial fuel."Food and cash are also in severe shortage while the Israeli Foreign Minister, who is being charged with war crimes by an international legal team, is insistent that any UN aid be approved first by the Israelis.

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Publication:Palestine News Network (West Bank, Palestine)
Date:Jan 20, 2009
Words:875
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