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Aid groups press Govt on Gaza

Anglican Missions and Christian World Service have joined more than a dozen Aotearoa New Zealand humanitarian organisations calling on the NZ Parliament to advocate for permanent peace in the Middle East, as its first order of business for 2024.

Taonga News  |  27 Jan 2024  |

A coalition of Aotearoa New Zealand humanitarian aid organisations, including Anglican Missions, Christian World Service, TearFund and UNICEF Aotearoa say that New Zealand needs to leverage its international standing to push for an end to the Israel-Gaza conflict.

The humanitarian organisations report that the Government’s first priorities should be to support all moves to open humanitarian access to Gaza; and work for a commitment from all parties to abide by international humanitarian laws that protect civilians, especially children. 

Director of Anglican Missions Michael Hartfield says the crisis in the Middle East is a humanitarian tragedy that is worsening as time goes on, and aid already prepared for civilian populations is blocked while bombardment continues. 

“This humanitarian catastrophe is dehumanising and unacceptable.”

“From the humanitarian sector we can see there are no military solutions to this tragic conflict. What we are seeing are short-lived pauses in bombing that let in only a fraction of the supplies needed before the violence resumes.”

Right now, access to Gaza is still heavily restricted and many aid agencies have been rendered powerless. There are critical shortages of medicine, water, fuel and food. In the north, there is no public access to clean water and thousands are on the brink of starvation.

One bright spot for Anglican Missions is that partners in the Diocese of Jerusalem

have confirmed Al Ahli Hospital is now functioning again, with twelve of its permanent doctors back at work, along with other medical staff and some volunteer doctors from other Gaza hospitals closed by the war. Last week Al Ahli staff performed 154 surgeries and cared for 400+ patients each day.

But while Al Ahli is able to generate 30% of its required electricity from solar panels, its fuel supplies for electricity generation are now running out. Al Ahli Hospital’s stockpiled medical supplies delivered during the short ceasefire are now dangerously low, as 60% of trucks carrying supplies never make it to their gates. These problems are replicated across the whole of Gaza and mean that out of Gaza’s formerly 36 hospitals, now only 15 can partially operate.

Across Gaza, children are now at risk of dying not only from bombings, but from dehydration, starvation, and disease as food and clean water supplies run low and waste from thousands of displaced people surviving without sanitation creates a breeding ground for cholera and disease. 

National Director of Christian World Service Tim Pratt says that while those with opposing ideologies, politics and theological rhetoric seek to defend and justify this war, the needs of those who like us, are made in the image of God, but live in Gaza are simply unimaginable. 

“Their basic resources of food, water, shelter - let alone safety, are extremely scarce, and the people of Gaza are left exhausted and extremely vulnerable.”

In the midst of this catastrophe, CWS’s partner, the Middle East Council of Churches Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) continues to offer care. The DSPR medical clinic in Rafah is bursting at the seams, with 30 staff working round the clock offering dental care, medicine, health supplies, mother & childcare, and psychosocial support to 400+ people each day. 

DSPR also provides funding for food and water, conducts health awareness workshops to educate on communicable diseases including serious hygiene-related problems, and distributes hygiene/dignity kits in local markets in Gaza.

Each of the signing New Zealand humanitarian organisations have partners in and around Gaza that are desperate to deliver more such aid to children and adults who are suffering, but they need the Government to advocate for access so they can better reach affected communities.

That’s why yesterday Aotearoa’s humanitarian aid organisations banded together to call for the New Zealand Government to urgently:

1. Mobilise the international community to demand a permanent end to conflict. Strengthen global support for a lasting solution to the conflict that prioritises peace.

2. Employ all diplomatic means to insist that international humanitarian law is upheld, and that all civilians are protected. Nearly half of Gaza’s population (41%) are under the age of 15, and nearly 10,000 children are estimated to have been killed so far in the conflict.[7,8] Civilians also need to be protected from further displacement.

3. Put pressure on the international community to ensure humanitarian access into Gaza at all crossings. Safe and unimpeded humanitarian access is required to provide supplies such as food, water and medicine that will save lives and prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian crisis.

4. Engage the international community to demand the immediate, safe and unconditional release of all Israeli hostages, especially abducted children, and the prevention and end to any grave violations against children, including killing and injuring.

5. Pressure the international community to ensure “safe zones” are truly safe. There is significant risk for displaced children and adults who are being funnelled into unilaterally established ‘safe zones’ in Gaza that do not meet the requirements of a safe zone. Without the right conditions, including the agreement of all parties, provision of survival essentials, and free and voluntary movement, concentrating civilians in such zones can raise the risk of attack and large-scale loss of life.

6. Increase New Zealand’s humanitarian aid support. The New Zealand public is giving generously to the NGO community’s public appeals, but further Government support is desperately needed to provide essential supplies.

The humanitarian organisations supporting the call for Government action on the Israel-Gaza conflict are:

Anglican Missions
Christian World Service
Tearfund New Zealand
UNICEF Aotearoa
Amnesty International Aotearoa
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand
Adventist Development and Relief Agency
CBM New Zealand
Childfund New Zealand
Oxfam Aotearoa
Save the Children New Zealand
World Vision New Zealand

Anglican Missions has a opened a new Appeal for the Middle East ‘Hope for the Holy Land’.

Gifts towards Christian World Service work in Gaza go to the ‘Gaza Palestine Emergency Appeal’.