UN agency appeals for $56 million to repair damage in occupied Palestinian territories

UN agency appeals for $56 million to repair damage in occupied Palestinian territories

An additional $56 million is needed for relief and reconstruction of several camps damaged during incursions by the Israeli military earlier this year, the head of the United Nations agency assisting Palestinian refugees said today at UN Headquarters in New York.

Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), told a press conference that the funds sought were over and above the $117 million needed for emergency operations in 2002.

Israeli military incursions into Palestinian refugee camps during March and April had resulted in widespread destruction and injuries, as humanitarian conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip fell to levels unprecedented in 35 years, Mr. Hansen said.

Military activities were continuing, and UNRWA was facing the challenge of responding to the increased health, shelter and education needs under conditions of closures and curfews, the Commissioner-General added.

"We have had to respond on a scale so far unseen and we have had to do so in the face of unprecedented difficulties of access: for our staff to get to work, to load the trucks…and for the drivers to get through the checkpoints and get to the Palestinian villages," Mr. Hansen said.

According to the Commissioner-General, the $55.7 million that UNRWA is asking for is intended to cover relief and reconstruction needs at Balata, Jenin, Douha, Aida and other camps, which need extensive rehabilitation.

The funds will go towards eight main areas, including shelter repair and reconstruction; relief and social assistance to counter growing poverty; education for children unable to reach their schools and meeting the demand for extra medical services and trauma counselling.

The money will also be used to repair the damaged roads, water supplies and other infrastructure; procure additional emergency food aid; employment programmes for the poorest families; and additional logistical costs arising from the incursions and the impact of closures and curfews.