Winter brings fresh misery to Gaza war-hit

Updated 27 November 2014
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Winter brings fresh misery to Gaza war-hit

GAZA CITY: As the wind whistles through gaping holes in her ruined house, 62-year-old Suad Al-Zaza and her daughter huddle together for warmth on a bed made of a wooden door laid on breeze blocks.
“I wake up cold, I sleep on the bed, afraid that it will break. I’m covered with two blankets that we were given,” she says as rain drips through the ceiling inside the wreckage of her home in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood. “Before the war, I was happy, safe, comfortable in my life and now we are living in the middle of this destruction.”
Three months after an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire ended a bloody 50-day war between Israel and Hamas militants, more than 100,000 Gazans remain homeless and the much-hyped reconstruction has yet to begin.
And a fierce winter storm which has battered the region since Monday has brought further misery to tens of thousands of Palestinian families who are living in temporary shelters or in the rubble of their destroyed homes.
In Shejaiya, one of the worst-hit neighborhoods where huge areas were reduced to rubble by Israeli tank fire, there is no sign of any construction. But there are still those desperate enough to return home.
Ibtisam Al-Ijla, 46, sits on a filthy, battered sofa in the blackened shell of her former home as her husband huddles in the corner, prodding at a fire, their only source of heating.
Corrugated iron sheets cover holes in the front wall, and wires hold up dirty blankets to create a thin illusion of privacy.
“I’m really worried about the weather but there is nothing that I can do about it,” she tells AFP before the full force of the storm hits.
She and her husband fled barefoot at the height of the bombardment only to return to ruins.
With no money to rent elsewhere, they were forced to move back in.
Grubby bedding lies on the floor. Draughty and exposed to the driving rain, the house has no front door, no electricity and no running water.
The toilet is completely open to the crater of rubble out back.
Around 30 percent of homes in the territory of 1.8 million people are damaged or destroyed.
Palestinian housing minister Mufid Hasayneh said Tuesday’s delivery was “positive” but fell far short of what was needed.
“Israel is responsible for this. They control the crossing and the raw materials needed for reconstruction but they are only letting small quantities through,” Hasayneh told AFP.
He said at least 7,000 tons a day are required if Gaza is to be rebuilt within three years. Few Gazans believe even that long timeframe will be achieved. Most have lost faith that reconstruction will ever materialize.
Even those with a solid roof over their heads are struggling.
In Khuzaa 48 families are living in container homes donated as emergency accommodation by the United Arab Emirates. “We’ve got it better than a lot of people,” admits Sawsan Al-Najjar, 34.
Mohammed Al-Hilu, 62, is hunched over an industrial sewing machine, making tents to help the homeless get through the winter.
“The occupation will finish before we see reconstruction here,” he sniffs.
“The Jews are stupid to put pressure on us because it only pushes us toward resistance. They try to force us into a narrow space but the pressure will cause an explosion.”


UN warns of worsening hunger crisis in Yemen

Updated 18 min ago
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UN warns of worsening hunger crisis in Yemen

  • The World Food Programme is in the process of scaling up its activities in Yemen to provide emergency food assistance
  • Eight million people in Yemen are already considered to be in the brink of famine

GENEVA: Some 12 million Yemenis could soon be on the brink of famine if the security and economic situation in the war-ravaged country does not improve, the UN warned Tuesday.
“Yemen is currently facing the world’s worst hunger crisis, with almost 18 million people throughout the country not knowing where their next meal is coming from,” World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Herve Verhoosel told reporters in Geneva.
Over eight million people are already considered to be on the brink of famine in Yemen, he said, adding that the situation was being exacerbated by sky-rocketing food prices, which have soared by a third in the past year alone.
“If the situation persists, we could see an additional 3.5 million severely food insecure Yemenis, or nearly 12 million in total, who urgently require regular food assistance to prevent them from slipping into famine-like conditions,” he warned.
This means the UN agency will need more funding, Verhoosel told AFP, pointing out that “the more people (who need help), the more money is needed.”
WFP is in the process of scaling up its activities in Yemen to provide emergency food assistance to some eight million of the country’s hungriest people each month, Verhoosel said.
But he lamented that due to the dire security situation in the port city of Hodeida, the UN agency still did not have access to some 51,000 tons of wheat stocks at its Red Sea Mills facility there, which would be enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure access to these wheat stocks,” Verhoosel said.
Yemen’s air, land and sea ports are currently functioning, so WFP had several ships filled with aid headed toward Yemen, and is working to reposition stocks in case routes are cut off, he said.
The agency has also begun using the port of Salalah in Oman as a supplementary route, he said.
WFP currently has enough grains in Yemen to help 6.4 million people for two months.
But Verhoosel warned that distribution across the country was difficult at best, insisting that aid workers need access and guarantees that their neutrality will be respected.
“We need an end to the fighting,” he said.
Yemen’s brutal conflict has since 2015 left some 10,000 people dead and has created what the UN has dubbed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.