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United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
22 June 2001
UNRWA LAUNCHES THIRD EMERGENCY APPEAL
GAZA -The desperate condition of Palestine refugees in Gaza and the West Bank after nine months of conflict has compelled the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees to appeal to the international community for US$ 77 million in emergency funds. This amount is needed to buy and distribute urgently needed food aid, medical supplies and to provide emergency work programmes.
This appeal, UNRWA's third, is needed to fund emergency operations to the end of the year. UNRWA believes the international community can help stabilise the situation in the region by quickly responding to the appeal and showing Palestinian refugees that they have not been abandoned by it.
The UNRWA appeal is also needed because of the severe decline in the Palestinian economy and the impact of the violence on the health and welfare of refugees. According to Peter Hansen, the UNRWA Commissioner-General, these effects will not be reversed quickly even if there was an immediate cessation in violence and an end to Israeli's policy of closures and other punitive measures in Gaza and the West Bank.
With the US$ 77 million UNRWA plans to:
· HELP 217,000 refugee families, a majority of the population, with basic food aid – including packages of flour, rice, cooking oil and lentils.
· CREATE almost 700,000 emergency job opportunity days to support the unemployed and stimulate demand in the devastated Palestinian economy
· PROVIDE over 5,000 desperately poor families with emergency cash assistance.
· REBUILD 200 refugee shelters destroyed by Israeli shelling and bulldozing operations.
· BUY two ambulances. · SUPPLY 51 health centres with first aid drugs and emergency medical supplies including prosthetic devices and physiotherapy equipment. · CREATE extra school days for over 200,000 refugee children to replace some of the days lost to closures and sieges while also creating summer activities for children traumatized by the fighting.
In referring to the continuing uncertainty of the situation Peter Hansen said: "UNRWA is recognised as a stabilising factor in the Middle East and is best placed to deliver emergency humanitarian assistance. We have the staff, the infrastructure, the logistical means and the systems in place to supply aid immediately and efficiently to hundreds of thousands of refugees in Gaza and the West Bank."
UNRWA's two previous emergency appeals, in November 2000 and April 2001, raised almost US$ 70 million. This enabled the Agency to provide monthly food parcels to over 200,000 refugee and non-refugee families in Gaza and the West Bank and create 230,000 work opportunity days to help the poorest breadwinners support their families.
The impact of the violence and the Israeli blockade on Palestinian Authority-controlled territory has been especially hard on the refugees. At the start of the Intifadah more than 50 per cent were pushed below the poverty line. This has now brought longer-term effects such as the doubling of stillbirths among refugees and the collapse of the regular immunisation of children -until UNRWA stepped in with an emergency programme.
UNRWA's 50 years of experience in the region enables it to monitor the humanitarian needs of refugees and respond quickly with the most appropriate assistance. The US$ 77 million appeal total was reached after careful assessment of needs in the territories and was made in consultation with the representatives of major donors to UNRWA, NGOs, other UN agencies and the Palestinian Authority.
Particular focus has been given in this appeal on supplying emergency workdays to labourers with a large number of dependents and no savings or income. To ensure that poor women are included UNRWA has a target of 30-50 per cent take up of workdays by women. The emergency work days programme provides the community with a dual benefit by softening the hardships caused by the loss of over 100,000 jobs in Israel and improving the infrastructure of the refugees' own communities.
The Agency also plans to address long-term needs that could not be served in the first months of the crisis – in particular trauma counseling for children, extra schooling to compensate for lost teaching days and post-injury rehabilitation.
The extra demands on UNRWA come at a time when the Agency's regular activities are suffering from a severe budget crisis. Existing resources and staff were already stretched before the conflict began and this year UNRWA will have a projected deficit of US$ 67 million on its regular $311 million budget.