UN aid chief says Gaza ceasefire is vital

Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — The U.N.'s humanitarian chief said Thursday that a ceasefire to stop the violence in Gaza is vital because of the deteriorating situation.

Valerie Amos, the undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, said people are running out of food and more than 100,000 are sheltering in U.N. schools.

"The majority of those killed in Gaza are women, children, men who have nothing to do with the fighting," she said in an interview in Tokyo, where she is attending a U.N.-organized meeting on finding better ways to deliver humanitarian aid to conflict and disaster zones in Asia. "So many children have been killed as a result of the violence in the last few days. It's a terrible, terrible situation."

Amos also advocated a "step change" in the way humanitarian aid is delivered in several areas to deal with growing funding shortages. One lesson from last year's Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, she said, is the need to involve local communities in the response and make the international community a last resort.

In the interview, Amos offered several ideas for improving the delivery of aid to emergency areas:

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REINVENTING RELIEF

"The funding situation has stayed actually pretty stable in terms of the volume of money that is available for humanitarian response, but needs are growing so fast, the funding cannot keep pace. And of course you have a lot of countries, countries that have been major donors to the humanitarian effort that have themselves been going through difficult economic times. So how do we deal with that? We need to have a step change in a number of areas. We need to review how we do humanitarian response, who does it, who's involved, how we equip communities, the national governments but also the regional organizations to come in, step in, support each other, so that the global international response becomes almost the last resort. We need to invest a lot more in prevention, in managing risk. A tiny proportion of the money spent on humanitarian aid and on development goes into those disaster preparedness measures. It makes a huge difference in terms of lives saved but also in terms of the money spent on responding to crises later on.... We also need to look at innovation. How can we do our business differently? What are the practices that are emerging in other sectors that we can borrow or we can use to make humanitarian response more effective."

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LESSONS FROM HAIYAN

"I was in Tacloban (in the Philippines) and was astounded by the total, total devastation that existed. We've learnt a lot of things. We've learnt that those first few hours and days, we really need to get the logistics right. We were stuck for the first few hours, because although we had people on the ground, they just could not get through. So those first few hours and days are absolutely critical. We've learnt that we have to do more to support the people on the ground. Coming in as the international community must be the last resort, because it's the first responders, the people in the community, the local authorities, the local government who are there who know the terrain. The national local Red Cross Society, for example, were the people who were able to get to some of the most far-flung places more quickly. We know that when necessary we need to call in military assets which were so helpful with the Typhoon Haiyan response."

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