18 July 2006 – In the face of an “extremely bleak” and worsening humanitarian outlook for the occupied Palestinian territory, the United Nations and select non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have taken what officials called an unprecedented step of revising their appeal for humanitarian assistance to Palestinians from $215 million to $384 million.
The revised emergency Appeal is aimed at helping the neediest people, particularly children, who make up half the Palestinian population, and does not replace the comprehensive services provided by the Palestinian Authority (PA), the UN said in the text, presented by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
In launching the revision, the UN cautioned that relief aid “can plug some of the emerging gaps to help support a continuation of services and can cushion a deepening humanitarian crisis, but it cannot prevent it.”
A number of factors have combined to create the emergency. Following the Hamas victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January, Israel stopped meeting its obligation to transfer of Palestinian Value Added Tax (VAT) and customs taxes, which comprise around half the PA monthly budget. Western donor funding was also suspended to the new PA pending its agreement to principles relating to non-violence, the recognition of Israel and an acceptance of previous agreements.
As a result of these and other factors, PA revenues have dropped by 75 per cent and salaries to over 152,000 of its employees have not been paid since March – wages that directly support 1 million people, or a quarter of the population, according to the UN.
These conditions alone are expected to cause poverty rates to rise sharply at a time when around 70 per cent of Gaza’s potential workforce is out of work or without pay. Exacerbating problems, Israeli-Palestinian violence continues with a mounting death toll on both sides.
The fiscal crisis comes hard on the heels of tighter restrictions on Palestinian movement – which Israel states are needed to protect its citizens against militant attacks – further fragmenting the affected areas, hampering economic growth and interrupting UN humanitarian assistance delivery.
To date, $117 million of the $384 million revised Appeal has been funded, or just under a third of the total requested.
“The new funding sought will be used to replenish depleted medical supplies of PA institutions, increase food relief, create temporary jobs and provide cash assistance to the most vulnerable segments of the population,” the Appeal said.
“It will alleviate some of the worst effects of the deepening humanitarian crisis, but a lasting solution lies in a fully functioning PA and the easing of movement restrictions on Palestinians.”