refuge in gaza
The number of displaced persons in Gaza has skyrocketed in the past week, leaving thousands of families without homes, food or protection from the violent conflict. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is utilizing all its available resources to aid Palestinians in dire need of protection and security. For example, U.N. schools provide a much-needed sanctuary for those seeking refuge in Gaza from the rain of missiles and military advances.

According to Christopher Gunness, the spokesman for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, the number of displaced persons has doubled, with the count rising from 22,000 to over 40,000 in merely one day.

Gunness describes the scope of the strife, saying, “This is a watershed moment for UNRWA, now that the number of people seeking refuge with us is more than double the figure we saw in the 2009 Gaza conflict.”

After 10 days of aerial and naval bombardment, the Palestinian Ministry of Health has reported more than 2,260 injuries, and the U.N. Protection Cluster maintains the current death count is at least 312 people, including at least 70 children.

UNRWA is offering asylum in the 44 schools located in Gaza. People staying at these schools receive one meal a day courtesy of UNRWA in conjunction with the World Food Program.

Along with the temporary safety provided by the U.N. schools, the U.N. is working to distribute non-food items to families’ housing relatives who are homeless due to the fighting.

The U.S. recently pledged $47 million in aid to Palestinians affected by the violence. According to the State Department, $15 million of this will be allotted to the UNRWA, and the remainder of it  “will be rechanneled to meet immediate needs.”

The U.S. donation will go toward meeting the UNRWA’s $60 million dollar request for international assistance.

Al Jazeera interviewed Robert Turner, the Director of Operations for UNRWA in Gaza, who voiced his concern, saying, “The speed with which this has happened is staggering.”

While the fighting and political tensions rage on in Gaza, the U.N. is focusing its attention on the innocent civilians most in need of assistance: the families and children without a safe place to ride out the storm of missiles.

-Grace Flaherty

Sources: Al Jazeera, UN News Centre
Photo: Aljazeera