Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


6 June 2003


(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 6 June (UNRWA) - The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has launched an urgent appeal to the international community for funds to support its emergency activities in the second half of 2003.

UNRWA, the largest development and emergency relief agency in the Middle East, is asking for $103 million to provide food aid for the poor, shelter for the homeless, medical care for the injured and counselling for children who have been traumatised by violence.

Launching the appeal in Geneva, UNRWA's Commissioner-General, Peter Hansen, emphasised that even if the recently re-started peace negotiations are successful, the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian refugees will remain great for the foreseeable future. He said: "The Palestinian population has suffered so much in the last three years that their distress will not quickly be reversed. The Palestinian economy has been gravely damaged and poverty rates have tripled; hundreds of families have been made homeless and thousands of people have been killed and injured. If the international community wishes to encourage peace in the region it must continue working to ease the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank."

"UNRWA has the welfare of half the population of the occupied Palestinian territory in its care. It has the staff, the logistics and the experience to ease their plight at this crucial period. It now needs renewed financial support from the world community, to be able to maintain this important work for the rest of the year."

With the funds requested the Agency plans to provide basic food aid to 227,500 families - over 1.1 million individuals - who have been plunged into dire poverty by the closures, curfews and violence of the last 32 months. Over $32 million of the appeal is earmarked for emergency food.

To further support family incomes and put the unemployed into useful work, UNRWA also plans to provide over 830,000 work days through its emergency job creation programme. Since September 2000 over a quarter of a million Palestinians have benefited directly or indirectly from this programme. UNRWA plans to spend $26 million on job creation.

The Agency also hopes to provide assistance to the very poorest refugee families to enable them to buy shoes and school clothes for their children. In addition the Agency is asking the international community for $1.5 million to provide remedial education, vocational training and extra-curricular activities to help it keep refugee children and youths off the streets and away from violence.

Children are also the target of the Agency's ongoing psychological counselling programme in its schools. Other emergency health needs include mobile clinics for isolated villages and camps in the West Bank and increased staff and medical supplies to cope with the 61 per cent increase in demand for UNRWA medical services in Gaza.

A key component of the Agency's emergency work is to provide shelter for the more than 12,000 refugees who have been made homeless by demolition operations during the strife and to help the many thousands more whose shelters have been damaged by fighting. If funds are forthcoming, UNRWA plans to repair or reconstruct shelters for 4,200 refugee households.

For more information contact:

In Gaza: Paul McCann Office: (+972 8) 671 4935; in Jerusalem: Sami Mshasha Office: (+972 2) 589 0408; in New York: Maher Nasser Office: (+1 212) 963 2255; in Geneva: Rosemary Tylka Office: (+41 22) 917 1166.

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