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Oxfam: Lift Palestinian aid freeze

September 2006

Oxfam calls on world leaders to lift Palestinian aid freeze at Stockholm conference For Immediate Release

International agency Oxfam is calling on donor governments, meeting in Stockholm today, to resume international aid to the Palestinian Authority in order to address the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

Oxfam believes that the Palestinian Authority stands to lose more than $1 billion following the suspension of aid earlier this year and Israel withholding Palestinian tax revenue, according to UN and World Bank estimates.

Oxfam says that Palestinians are being pushed into deep poverty as a result.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been left without an income. Rubbish is piling in the streets, sewage is overflowing from household cesspits, schools are running without budgets and government employees are striking for lack of pay.

A temporary scheme agreed by donors in June to pay aid directly to the Palestinian people has failed to solve the problem, Oxfam said.

Oxfam International spokesperson Adam Leach said: "If donor governments are serious about tackling poverty and suffering facing Palestinians, they should immediately resume funding to the local and national authorities charged with delivering essential services. They must also press Israel to transfer Palestinian tax revenues that are being held on behalf of the Palestinian government.

"The temporary mechanism, established to provide direct support to Palestinians, excludes tens of thousands of government employees. Plans to provide payments to the poorest 40,000 Palestinians and their families, who used to receive social welfare payments, have so far failed to materialize."

Fawsi Sadqi Nasser, an English teacher in the Madama school near Nablus, spoke to Oxfam about the impact of the changes: "I am a teacher. The teachers are always waiting for our salaries but now I have not received my salary for months. Life has become extremely difficult. The children in the family feel the situation. At my school, around half of the children's parents work for the Palestinian Authority. When you look at the children you can notice a change in their faces." The donor conference will discuss continuing problems of humanitarian access and movement that remains a significant contributor to poverty. Crossing points into Gaza have been repeatedly closed causing severe shortages of essential supplies, including milk powder and bread and stifling economic activity and trade by blocking the free flow of goods and people. No humanitarian aid has been able to pass into Gaza since 15 August. It has also interrupted the ongoing work of Oxfam partners seeking to rehabilitate water systems.

Oxfam and the Umma Trust are jointly hosting a dinner to raise funds for their relief and reconstruction work in the Middle East. Funds raised will assist people in Lebanon, Israel, and Gaza.

The Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand, Barry Coates will host the evening to be held on Saturday 9 September at 6pm at the Ceramco Park Function Centre, 120 Glendale Road, Glen Eden and notable Middle East commentators from the New Zealand community will provide their perspectives, providing guests with a unique insight into the recent conflict.

Oxfam is committed to assisting people in Lebanon, Israel, and Gaza during this emergency and beyond.

"It will take a long time for the wounds to heal and it's imperative that these people are not forgotten," said Coates.

For $45, the price of an evening, Oxfam can provide one displaced family with a hygiene kit containing towels, soap, toothpaste and other simple but vital items to keep them healthy while they begin the traumatic process of rebuilding their lives.

Tickets are limited and cost $45. Tickets need to be purchased by Tuesday 5 September. Please contact Trien Steverlynck, Oxfam New Zealand for tickets.

trien@oxfam.org.nz or phone 09 355 6855. Please, help with reconstruction in the Middle East.

ENDS

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