Thursday, January 15, 2009

If you CARE, read on

Press release

CARE cancels distributions in Gaza due to bombing
Critical deliveries of food and medical supplies for mothers and infants jeopardized

Gaza, Occupied Palestinian Territories (Jan. 15, 2009) – CARE has been forced to cancel distributions in the Gaza Strip today, as heavy bombing in Gaza City fell around CARE warehouses and staff distribution sites. CARE had been planning to distribute emergency medical supplies to hospitals and clinics today, as well as baby food and blankets for newborns in shelters.

“This is the first day CARE has been forced to totally suspend activities in Gaza,” said Martha Myers, CARE International’s Country Director for West Bank and Gaza. “This is a tragic situation – desperately needed supplies are ready to be distributed today, but we cannot reach the people in need because of the bombing. Last week, our staff had to flee a food distribution because of the bombing. Yesterday, while our workers were packing the medical supplies for today’s distributions, bombs fell near the warehouse and our staff had to drop and run. This is not humanitarian access.”

CARE is again calling for an immediate ceasefire, and for unrestricted humanitarian access to reach people in need.

Today’s distributions were particularly critical, said Myers, as they were to target pregnant women and new mothers and their infants. According to UNFPA, there are 40,000 pregnant women in Gaza, and 170 women are giving birth a day – many of whom are unable to reach hospitals or receive health care for their babies.

“Half the population is under 18. Gaza is a crowded classroom of children, and they are the least able to protect themselves. Babies born into this war – and their mothers – are paying the heaviest price,” said Myers.

“If you have 170 women giving birth a day, that means you have 340 new mothers and newborns who are especially vulnerable and who need specialized care – proper nutrition, access to appropriate health facilities, medical check-ups after the birth. Newborn babies need warmth, cleanliness, nutrition, and comfort,” said Myers. “None of this is not available in Gaza right now, and these infants and their mothers are suffering the consequences.”

CARE is providing medical supplies to treat sick children, including equipment such as infant heart rate monitors, ventilators and infusion pumps, pharmaceuticals, and basic nutritional supplements for pregnant women to prevent anemia and reduce the risk of miscarriage. CARE is also providing fresh vegetables, baby food, blankets, diapers, soap, and hygiene supplies, and plastic sheeting and material to repair broken windows to protect families against the cold.

“Humanitarian workers are just as at risk as other civilians in this conflict,” said Myers. “I am deeply concerned for my staff, and for the people we could not reach today because of the bombing. We hope to resume all activities tomorrow, if safety permits.”

About CARE: CARE is one of the world’s largest humanitarian aid agencies, providing assistance in nearly 70 countries. CARE has been working in Israel, West Bank and Gaza since 1948 (with a short break from 1984-1994), initially implementing programs to help refugees after the Holocaust. Today, CARE implements programs in food security, health and water, support for civil society groups, and distributions of fresh food. Since the conflict started Dec. 27, CARE has distributed fresh food, medical supplies, heaters, blankets and plastic sheeting to hospitals, families and feeding centres in Gaza.

Media contacts:
Juliette Seibold (in Jerusalem), +972.547797730, seibold@carewbg.org
Melanie Brooks (in Jerusalem), +972. 547797719, +41.795903047, brooks@careinternational.org

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