Middle East: UN relief agency seeks $94 million to help West Bank and Gaza
Launching the bid in Jerusalem, the Agency noted that over two years of violence, curfews and closures have had a “catastrophic” impact on the humanitarian conditions of the 1.5 million Palestinian refugees living in the area. Some 22 per cent of children are suffering from acute or chronic malnutrition, while unemployment now exceeds 50 per cent and over 60 per cent of the population is living on less than $2 a day.
Thousands of Palestinian families have had their shelters demolished or destroyed, and the Agency warned of increasing signs that Palestinian society is teetering on the edge of ruin.
“UNRWA is the largest humanitarian actor in the region and is the only organization with the kind of infrastructure able to have an major impact on the living conditions for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank,” said the Agency's Commissioner-General, Peter Hansen. “So rapid has been the humanitarian collapse that it will take an emergency programme of the scale we present today to prevent a complete breakdown in Palestinian society.”
With $32.4 million, UNRWA hopes to launch the largest food aid programme ever seen in the territories. Around 222,000 families, comprising 1.1 million people, will receive regular supplies of iron-fortified flour, chickpeas, olive oil and other staples designed to provide a nutritional safety net for those worst affected by the crisis
The Agency also plans to create almost 1 million job opportunity days for refugees in Gaza and the West Bank in an effort to inject badly needed cash into the local economy and provide meaningful temporary employment. UNRWA will hire additional teachers, medical staff, labourers and others on short contracts to help it implement its humanitarian programmes and to provide breadwinners with much-needed income.
The appeal also envisions a major rebuilding programme to replace or repair shelters that continue to be destroyed or badly damaged in Israeli military operations. Additionally, UNRWA aims to supply extra medicines, medical staff and mobile clinics for refugees cut off from health care by curfews and closures. In the education sector, a large-scale distance-learning project is planned to help children whose schooling is being disrupted by the long periods when they or their teachers cannot reach their classrooms.
“It is my hope and my wish that the international community responds generously and urgently to help UNRWA help the Palestinians,” Mr. Hansen said.