Last updated: 21 August, 2014

UN aid workers call for ceasefire in Gaza

UN aid workers stepped up calls Thursday for an urgent Gaza ceasefire, warning that spiralling violence endangered their ability to respond to the needs of the 1.8 million affected population.

The head of UNICEF’s field office in Gaza, Anne-Claire Dufay, told AFP that renewed hostilities were threatening the delivery of aid to hundreds of thousands of children with acute needs.

“We urgently need a few hours of ceasefire per day so we can provide support to affected children and families,” Dufay told AFP.

Work to repair infrastructure damaged during the six-week war between Israel and Hamas has temporarily halted since hostilities resumed on Tuesday as truce talks unravelled, she said.

UNICEF teams had also had their movement restricted, Dufay said.

“In the current context we should at least have a few hours a day for a humanitarian ceasefire corridor,” she said.

Ramesh Rajasingham, head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Gaza and the West Bank, said there was an “urgent need for an immediate ceasefire”.

The number of displaced Palestinians has risen to 435,000, the UN says, since truce talks collapsed in Cairo and Hamas resumed rocket attacks on Israel and warplanes retaliated.

The United Nations warned that the number of displaced is expected to increase further with an extra 23,000 people already seeking shelter at 82 UN and seven government schools.

Rajasingham said constant movement between homes and shelters, when ceasefires begin and end, was traumatic, particularly for children.

“It is extremely difficult for us to do our job, to save lives, protect and assist those in need, including for medical staff to save lives, of aid workers to meet needs, for specialists to clear unexploded munitions, or for technicians to repair damage to infrastructure vital to the population,” he said.

“In the long run, a permanent halt in violence stemming from a durable ceasefire is crucial to mitigating the humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip,” he added.