Question of Palestine home
1 May 2002
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS FOR PALESTINIANS WORSENS.
United Nations aid agencies said Tuesday they were facing an uphill struggle to get assistance to tens of thousands of Palestinians in desperate need of help following the Israeli incursions,
"This is a crisis on top of an emergency,'' said Rene Aquarone, spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency that looks after Palestinian refugee camps. Aquarone said the situation in the territories was worsening particularly because of road blocks preventing people moving around and stopping Palestinians going to their jobs in Israel.
There are particular shortages of food, cement and animal feed, the spokesman said. UNRWA has lent 250 metric tons of flour to the Palestinian authorities because they are unable to obtain it themselves. Since Palestinian staff are blocked from entering Israel, only the agency's international staff could drive aid convoys into the territories.
Damage to the Palestinian territories since the start of Israeli incursions is estimated by the World Bank at $300 million. That includes $42 million in the Jenin refugee camp and $111 million in the town of Nablus.
Top U.N. relief coordinator in Geneva Ross Mountain said that the biggest problems in the Palestinian territories at the moment were unexploded ordnance, particularly in Jenin and Nablus, and shelter for those who have lost their homes.
World Health Organization spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said the WHO's regional coordinator had met with the Palestinian deputy health minister, Munzer Sharif, who had expressed particular concern about the lack of freedom of movement for health workers. The collapse of immunization programs could lead to an outbreak of measles, while the lack of safe drinking water put people at risk of cholera and other waterborne diseases, he told the agency.
The World Food Program said it was trying to buy 2,600 metric tons of wheat flour for an emergency distribution to 265,000 particularly vulnerable Palestinians. Spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said WFP had not been able to make its normal deliveries of food for the past month. "We have reached about 100,000 people, but the big majority of them, 94,000, are in Gaza. In the West Bank we have only been able to reach people in institutions like hospitals,'' she said.
In Nablus, WFP estimates that 40,000 people - more than a third of population - are in urgent need of food aid, Berthiaume said. In Qalqilyah, 70 percent of the population is estimated to be living below the poverty line.