Tuesday, February 10

Access Denied

It has been three weeks since Israel pulled its troops out of the Gaza Strip. But all is not well. Sporadic fighting continues. Palestinian militants occasionally fire rockets into Israel. And Israel continues to bomb selected sites, including the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza.

Perhaps the bigger story is the flow – or lack of flow – of humanitarian aid and workers into Gaza.

MCC has been trying to get into Gaza since January 20, but to no avail. The process requires getting permission from Israeli authorities, who control the border crossings. So far they have rejected MCC’s request to visit partners and assess the damage in the Gaza Strip.

MCC is not alone. Many other international organizations like World Vision are facing the same problems. The Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem was recently denied entry to Gaza to visit Al Ahli – an Anglican-run hospital.

Last week the United Nations briefly suspended its shipments of aid to Gaza after Hamas took items from a UN warehouse. UN deliveries have resumed, but other groups have not been as fortunate in getting aid into Gaza. A week ago, the Israeli navy prevented a Lebanese ship carrying food, medicine, clothing and children’s toys from docking at Gaza’s seaport.

The Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) – of which MCC is a member – has issued a press statement calling for better access to Gaza.

“We need constant and consistent, unfettered humanitarian access in order to better help the desperate civilian families of Gaza who have lost their homes and businesses and are struggling amid shortages of food, supplies, cash, healthcare and fuel,” said Charles Clayton, AIDA chair and regional director for World Vision’s programs. “It is unacceptable that staff of international aid agencies with expertise in emergency response are still not given full access into Gaza, and that the crossings are not fully operational for humanitarian and commercial flows of goods and people."

For the time being, MCC’s money is able to travel where MCC personnel are not. MCC has been able to wire $45,000 to partner agencies who work in the Gaza Strip. MCC plans to send another $20,000 later this month. In the mean time, MCC staff members eagerly wait for the opportunity for face-to-face visits with partners who have endured the trauma of war.

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