Aid Groups Angry over Lack of Access to Gaza

Aid organizations are complaining about the severe restricted access to Gaza that has kept urgently needed humanitarian aid from reaching people inside Gaza despite the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas last week.

"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 goods," said Charles Clayton, chair of the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), according to the U.N. humanitarian news service IRIN.

A recent survey by the humanitarian agency CARE found that 89 percent of Gazans had not received aid assistance since Dec. 27, which shows, according to CARE, the clear need for more aid and humanitarian workers in Gaza.

"If the ceasefire is holding, then any blockage of humanitarian access is unacceptable," Clayton said.

Despite the odds, the ceasefire on Jan. 18 between Israel and Hamas has held. During the month-long bitter conflict, more than 1,300 Palestinians died and another 5,400 were injured. Estimates place damage to infrastructure and other systems in the Gaza Strip at billions of dollars.

Israeli authorities have allowed 100-120 trucks to enter Gaza each day, according to John Ging, the head of U.N. Relief and Words Agency (the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees).

But Ging says hundreds of trucks need to enter Gaza daily to meet the needs.

"This is the same approach that led to this conflict," he said. "We need a change of policy regarding the crossing points. If they remain closed it will lead to more violence."

Mike Baily of Oxfam International said aid groups need to get into Gaza to not only distribute food and medicine, but to also help farmers restore their farmlands.

"If we don't plant crops now, we won't harvest in three, four months time, and the one and a half million people of Gaza will be completely dependent on food aid … coming in from outside," Baily said to NPR (National Public Radio).

Other issues worrying aid groups are the repair of damaged sewage lines, which could pose immediate health risks if not quickly repaired, and the reconstruction of homes.

Arab nations have joined together to support the rebuilding of Gaza, with Saudi Arabia alone pledging $1 billion in aid.

Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of Barnabas Fund, called on Christians to "show the same concern for the Christian minority in Gaza" as Muslims for the Muslim people in Gaza by "giving generously" to meet their needs.

The Barnabas Fund has partnered with Bible Societies in the region to offer food coupons to 400 Christian families that can be exchanged at supermarkets and temporary shops for food.

Although food is the priority at the moment, the ministry working with the persecuted church says it is working with other Christian partners to send additional aid to Christians in Gaza.

Other Christian groups helping Gazan civilians include Church World Service, Baptist World Alliance, and Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Hamas has repeatedly stated that lifting the blockade on Gaza by Israel and Egypt is a condition for an official peace agreement with Israel.

Israel has demanded that the international community and Arab neighbors ensure that no weapons will be smuggled into Gaza.