For Immediate Release
Mercy Corps Team in Gaza Strip Focuses on Humanitarian Disaster
Violence leaves civilians in desperate need of fuel, medical supplies, food and other vital resources
PORTLAND, Oregon - The global relief and development agency Mercy Corps is putting its employment and youth programs in the Gaza Strip on hold while seeking more immediate ways to help residents cope with the growing humanitarian crisis. The agency is monitoring the evolving needs - including severe shortages of fuel, medical supplies, and food - and preparing to respond.
Mercy Corps' ongoing programs in the Gaza Strip, which provide short-term jobs as well as psychosocial programs for children, have been temporarily halted due to the ongoing Israeli military offensive. According to news reports, this week's violence has killed more than 300 people, wounded more than 600, and created widespread panic among civilians.
"The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire. There are severe shortages of electricity, which means that overwhelmed hospitals do not have power and families cannot pump clean water," explains Andrew Dwonch, Mercy Corps Mission Director for the Gaza Strip and West Bank. "Medical supplies, water, fuel and shelter are all short supply."
Even before the current military action began, Mercy Corps programs were inhibited because of the frequent closures of the Gazan borders, which led to fuel rationing and electricity and water shortages. Staff from Mercy Corps and more than 20 other humanitarian organizations have been denied entry to Gaza since the beginning of November.
"Humanitarian access has been severely restricted for months," comments Dwonch. "This military action exacerbates an already untenable situation. Civilians need more consistent flows of food, fuel and other items to weather this crisis."
Mercy Corps staff is collecting information on humanitarian needs, and is exploring ways to provide household supplies and items such as first aid kits and medical supplies.
Mercy Corps' presence in Gaza dates to 2005, when the agency distributed much-needed medical supplies, food packages, cooking fuel, and kitchenware to families affected by border closures.
Mercy Corps currently offers vulnerable Gazans short-term jobs to help quell the territory's nearly 50 percent unemployment rate. In addition, Mercy Corps runs recreational activities for children to help them deal with conflict-related trauma, build self-esteem and interactive skills. The agency also connects hundreds of Palestinian youth in Gaza with their peers at high schools in the U.S. Northwest through a program called Global Youth Connection.
HOW TO HELP:
Gaza Crisis Fund
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208
Mercy Corps works amid disasters, conflicts, chronic poverty and instability to unleash the potential of people who can win against nearly impossible odds. Since 1979, Mercy Corps has provided $1.5 billion in assistance to people in 106 nations. Supported by headquarters offices in North America and Europe, the agency's unified global programs employ 3,500 staff worldwide and reach nearly 16.4 million people in more than 35 countries.