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Facing grim situation in Palestinian territories

Facing grim situation in Palestinian territories, UN raises aid appeal by 80 per cent

With the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory looking extremely bleak and predicted to worsen in the coming months, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been compelled to revise their appeal for aid to Palestinians upwards by 80 per cent from $215 million to $385 million.

The revised amount “aims to alleviate the impact of soaring joblessness and collapse in family income through the creation of emergency employment and to prevent increased malnutrition through expanded food assistance to families unable to meet their caloric needs,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said today.

It noted that infants and children, who make up half the population, are at special risk of malnutrition in the fiscal crisis facing the Palestinian Authority (PA). After the Hamas victory in the January election, Israel stopped the transfer of Palestinian value added taxes (VAT) and customs taxes it is obligated to pass over, which comprise around 50 per cent of the PA budget.

The revised appeal will attempt to revive an agricultural sector hard-hit by closures, provide essential health services including counselling for traumatized youth, and provide water to communities with restricted access.

With revenues including donor funds to the PA rapidly drying up, salaries to 152,000 of its employees, who support 1 million people, or more than 25 per cent of the population, have now not been paid since February. The lack of salaries and essential supplies will undermine the delivery of key services to most Palestinians, OCHA warned.

If current trends persist, Palestinian gross domestic product (GDP) is conservatively estimated to fall by 25 per cent by the end of 2006. Poverty is predicted to rise, and around 70 per cent of Gaza’s potential workforce will either not be working or be unpaid.

The revised appeal cannot, and does not aim to replace the comprehensive range of services provided by the PA, such as hospitals and schools.

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