100,000s Palestinians Face Humanitarian Aid Cut
Hundreds of Thousands of Palestinians Face Cut-off of Humanitarian Aid: Hansen
UNRWA Chief Says $100 Million Urgently Needed
The United Nations agency in charge of helping Palestinian refugees said that if its appeal for millions of dollars in aid was not answered immediately, then the agency, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA, will have to cut humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The head of UNRWA, Peter Hansen said in June his agency appealed for more than $100 million in emergency aid that was to last until the end of the year. As of now, he added, the agency has received nothing.
Although Hansen said the agency has received pledges indicating donors eventually will give $35-$40 million, he said that is far less than what is needed. As a consequence, he warned, many important programs for the Palestinians will be reduced or come to an end.
Half of the 1.3 million Palestinians UNRWA helps will no longer receive food and nearly 2,000 shelters that were completely destroyed in the West Bank and Gaza will not be rebuilt, Hansen revealed.
He also said emergency employment programs will have to be drastically reduced.
“We will maybe have to cut out some 5,500 jobs,” said Hansen. “That translates into 600,000 job days that a person is employed and there will be some 33,000-35,000 people affected, mainly and usually head of family losing the job.”
Hansen also said that the U.N. will have to cut down drastically on the number of people it gives emergency assistance to from 13,000 to 900.
The United Nations has previously warned that the Palestinian economy is in a devastating state. Conservative estimates put unemployment at 60 percent while about 70 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day.
The head of UNRWA said that now, when the Middle East peace process appears to be getting off the ground, is a particularly bad time to be making drastic cuts.
“If the international community wants to send a message: ‘Trust us. We are working on your behalf. We will eventually have peace.’ That is not very likely that such trust will in fact be created,” said the U.N. official.
Hansen further said that the Palestinian people are becoming frustrated and angry and may soon lose hope that the outside world will ever be willing to give them the kind of aid they need.
Israel Should Ease Closure: Annan
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed that if the international community wants the Middle East peace plan to succeed, Israel should ease its closure on Palestinian cities and towns to minimize Palestinian suffering and the international community must increase its support to halt the Palestinians’ downward spiral of social and economic despair.
“The Quartet and the international community must hold the parties to their commitments and help them to implement the Road Map, until they reach its final goal,” Annan said in a message to a U.N. Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, convened on Tuesday in Geneva by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
“But as the parties and the international community work towards the goal of a permanent settlement, each and every day the Palestinian people suffer,” Annan said in the message, read by Peter Hansen.
Annan highlighted the devastation that hit the Palestinians socially and economically in the last few years.
“They live in circumstances of social and economic devastation. During the last few years, not only have many thousands been killed or wounded, but the infrastructure and productive sectors of the Palestinian economy have been virtually destroyed.”
He said that Palestinian unemployment and poverty have reached unprecedented levels.
“Unemployment and poverty rates have reached unprecedented levels. The capacity of the Palestinian Authority to function has been weakened. A total collapse of the Palestinian economy has only been prevented by the infusion of substantial aid and budgetary support,” he stressed.
“The humanitarian emergency in the occupied Palestinian territory has been exacerbated by the tightening of the stifling regime of closures and curfews, as well as by continued settlement activity and the construction of a separation wall,” he added.
Noting that UNRWA’s “vital assistance to millions of Palestinian refugees is threatened by chronic funding shortages”, he appealed to donors to contribute generously.
Although only a permanent political settlement ending the occupation can provide a durable solution to the economic and humanitarian problems of the Palestinians, Annan said improvement in their daily lives were key building blocks of a sustainable peace process.
“There has never been a more important time for the Palestinian people to see that the international community is supporting their socio-economic recovery and security,” he added.