17 January 2012
Three years after the end of the Gaza war, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, has launched an emergency appeal for Gaza and the West Bank worth just over 300 million US dollars. Speaking at UNRWA HQ in Gaza , Deputy Commissioner General, Margo Ellis, said “the effects of the war still persist today and the humanitarian needs of the women, men and children of Gaza remain widespread and acute”.
Commenting on the continuing Israeli blockade, she told journalists, “despite an easing of access, Gaza remains under a blockade and its population subject to collective punishment, an act illegal under international law”. Meanwhile, UNRWA has continued its reconstruction efforts. Out of a 667 million USD reconstruction plan, UNRWA has been able to complete 22 projects worth some 22.5 million USD and is presently working on implementation of further projects worth some $115 million USD. This is a sizeable amount and reflects good progress made, but dozens more schools and thousands of homes still need to be built. While we welcome the steps made by the Israeli authorities in approving projects, we need to step up the pace of reconstruction. Three years on, UNRWA calls on the international community to work with the relevant parties to ease further the restrictions, give swifter approval for more projects and put an end to the blockade.
Commenting on the recent closing and destruction of the industrial scale Karni Crossing into Gaza by the Israeli authorities, she said this “has made exports at meaningful levels an impossibility. The Kerem Shalom crossing is the only commercial crossing available for traders and humanitarian organisations.” She added that efforts being made by the Israeli authorities to increase the capacity of Kerem Shalom must be appreciated, but “the possibility of returning to pre-blockade trade levels between Gaza, the West Bank and Israel remains low”.
According to UNRWA officials, the continuing blockade and the restrictions on exports have far reaching consequences which increase poverty and aid dependency and the demand for UNRWA’s emergency services.
A quarter of the UNRWA appeal is for the West Bank , where, according to Ellis, “forced displacements, settlement expansion, and settler violence are taking a devastating toll on the communities UNRWA serves. Since the beginning of 2011, nearly 1100 Palestinians, including 618 children, have been displaced due to demolitions in East Jerusalem and Area C. This compares with 606 Palestinians, including 297 children, displaced in 2010. As many of the displaced are refugees, the burden of assisting them falls upon UNRWA’.
The appeal focuses on three strategic priorities – food security, protection and emergency response capability. 80% of the requested funds will be used to promote food security through food assistance, cash assistance and job creation programmes. A sizeable portion of the appeal also aims to protect the rights of refugees and improve their access to basic emergency health, water, sanitation, education, and temporary shelter. The Appeal also seeks to further strengthen the Agency’s emergency response capacity, positioning the Agency to better respond to emergency needs despite the decrease in overall funds sought.
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UNRWA provides assistance, protection and advocacy for nearly 5 million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, pending a solution to their plight. The Agency’s services encompass education, health care, social safety-net, camp infrastructure and improvement, community support, microfinance and emergency response, including in times of armed conflict.
UNRWA is funded almost entirely by contributions from States. The Agency’s core budget for 2010-2011 stands at $1.23 billion. In 2009, emergency appeals for the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon amounted to $827.4 million.
For more information please contact:
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724