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UN launches $103 million appeal in WestBank-Gaza

UN agency launches $103 million appeal to help refugees in West Bank and Gaza

The main United Nations relief agency assisting Palestine refugees has launched an urgent appeal to the international community for $103 million to support its emergency activities in the second half of 2003.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the largest development and emergency relief agency in the Middle East, said the funds are needed to provide food aid, shelter, medical care and counselling for children who have been traumatized by violence.

Launching the appeal in Geneva, UNRWA's Commissioner-General, Peter Hansen, emphasized that even if the recently re-started peace negotiations are successful, the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian refugees will remain great for the foreseeable future.

"The Palestinian population has suffered so much in the last three years that their distress will not quickly be reversed,” he said. “The Palestinian economy has been gravely damaged and poverty rates have tripled; hundreds of families have been made homeless and thousands of people have been killed and injured. If the international community wishes to encourage peace in the region it must continue working to ease the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank."

With the funds requested, the Agency plans to provide basic food aid to 227,500 families – more than 1.1 million individuals – who have been plunged into dire poverty by the closures, curfews and violence of the last 32 months. Over $32 million of the appeal is earmarked for emergency food.

To further support family incomes and put the unemployed into useful work, UNRWA also plans to use $26 million to provide over 830,000 work days through its emergency job creation programme. Since September 2000, more than 250,000 Palestinians have benefited directly or indirectly from this programme.

The Agency also hopes to provide assistance to the very poorest refugee families to enable them to buy shoes and school clothes for their children. In addition, the Agency is asking the international community for $1.5 million to provide remedial education, vocational training and extra-curricular activities to help it keep refugee children and youths off the streets and away from violence.

Children are also the target of the Agency's ongoing psychological counselling programme in its schools. Other emergency health needs include mobile clinics for isolated villages and camps in the West Bank and increased staff and medical supplies to cope with the 61 per cent increase in demand for UNRWA medical services in Gaza.

A key component of the Agency's emergency work is to provide shelter for the more than 12,000 refugees who have been made homeless by demolition operations during the strife and to help the many thousands more whose shelters have been damaged by fighting. If funds are forthcoming, UNRWA plans to repair or reconstruct shelters for 4,200 refugee households.

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