British aid agencies launch Gaza appeal

British aid agencies have launched an emergency appeal for people affected by the conflict in Gaza, with the BBC agreeing to show adverts calling for donations -- five years after it refused to participate in a similar drive.

AFP| Last Updated: Aug 08, 2014, 05:40 AM IST

British aid agencies have launched an emergency appeal for people affected by the conflict in Gaza, with the BBC agreeing to show adverts calling for donations -- five years after it refused to participate in a similar drive.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which brings together 13 leading British charities at times of crisis, said half a million people in Gaza had been forced from their homes, and that up to 1.5 million had limited access to water, sanitation or medical care.

Nearly 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis have been killed in four weeks of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

DEC chief executive Saleh Saeed said Gaza was "on the edge" and the humanitarian emergency was affecting virtually every resident.

He said: "Many people are living in terribly overcrowded UN shelters, but they still need food and basic household items which we take for granted. Many are in urgent need of medical care, but hospital supplies are almost finished.

"Even before the conflict began, the people of Gaza were close to breaking point. Now we are seeing a humanitarian emergency affecting virtually every man, woman and child in Gaza."

The British government said it would match public donations up to the first £2 million ($3.4 million, 2.5 million euros).

"For people wanting to help civilians in Gaza caught up in this crisis, giving now means every pound they donate will buy twice as many food parcels, provide twice as many blankets and help twice as many people to get through this crisis," international development secretary Justine Greening said.

Eleven of the 13 DEC agencies are working in Gaza, or planning to work there, and on Friday the charities announced efforts would be ramped up to take advantage of a three-day ceasefire.

Oxfam was delivering water to 175,000 people a day, the British Red Cross had reached 3,900 injured people, and Islamic Relief was helping 125,000 people with water, sanitation, food and child welfare, DEC said.

In 2009, the BBC received thousands of complaints after it joined Sky News television in deciding not to air a DEC fundraising appeal for Gaza which was shown by other channels.

The publicly-funded BBC said then it wanted to avoid compromising public confidence in its impartiality.

The BBC said it had taken "three issues" into consideration after being asked to broadcast the current appeal -- the scale of the crisis, the ability of the agencies to provide assistance and the likelihood that a public appeal would be successful.

It added in a statement: "The humanitarian need in Gaza has been widely acknowledged, including by the Israeli government, and the DEC has given assurances that aid can reach those who need it."