U.N.: 25 pct of Gaza population forced to evacuate homes

Gaza/Jerusalem, Aug 23 (EFE).- More than 460,000 people, almost a fourth of the Gaza Strip population, have been forced to evacuate their homes and become internally displaced persons, or IDPs, inside Gaza due to Israeli airstrikes, according to figures provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Its statistics show that 279,389 people are sheltered in the 83 schools that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East has set up in the Hamas-controlled coastal strip.

"Another 34,602 IDPs were hosted in seven government shelters supported by UNRWA," the report says, adding that thousands of people have arrived at those centers over the past 24 hours.

In addition, another 10,241 people are being sheltered in schools managed by the Palestinian Social Affairs Ministry, while 137,411 have not yet registered as IDPs since they are living at the homes of relatives, in public buildings or informal shelters.

"Given the length of hostilities and the large numbers of IDPs, overcrowding, adequate protection and hygiene are growing concerns," says the situation report, which reveals the difficulty of using running water on the Gaza Strip, since numerous infrastructures have been bombed.

"All networks and wells providing water to the schools have been repaired, and all designated emergency shelters are connected either to a municipality network, to a water well, or to both. However, these sources do not provide sufficient amounts of water for the displaced," UNRWA warns.

It also warns of the growing amount of psychological damage caused by the war, and of the difficulties of providing enough food because "the number of IDPs seeking shelter in UNRWA installations as a result of the conduct of hostilities is unprecedented in UNRWA's history."

"The anxiety, the stress caused by the constant shelling, the loss of loved ones and homes, as well as the overall lack of perspective for a life in Gaza, contribute to increasing tensions in the overcrowded shelters," it says.

"The crisis has worsened an already extremely fragile environment in terms of food security and livelihoods (but) an exceptional one-off food distribution by UNRWA, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA), targeting families who do not regularly receive food assistance, is continuing with 415,000 out of a targeted 730,000 people," the report says.

Some 2,100 Palestinians have been killed, more than 75 percent of them civilians, in the 42 days of Israeli bombardments of the Gaza Strip. EFE