The Humanitarian Update is a monthly publication from UN OCHA’s Regional Office in Dubai, reporting on the main humanitarian events in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. For more information on Iraq or OPT, please visit www.ochairaq.org and www.ochaopt.org
>The Special Humanitarian Envoy for the UN Secretary General, Mr. Abdul Aziz Arrukban, went on mission to Gaza on 27-28 February. During this visit he spoke at length with ordinary residents of Gaza about their most urgent humanitarian needs which resulted from the recent fighting. He also met with aid agency officials to discuss improvements in bringing in relief supplies and particularly about the urgent need for the border crossings into Gaza being opened. Mr. Arrukban has urged for a continued focus on the humanitarian needs in Gaza.
>On 23 February, Qatar announced a donation of US$40 million to the United Nations for its humanitarian programmes worldwide. Thirty million dollars was pledged for emergency operations in Gaza while US$10 million will go through the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), making Qatar the ninth-largest contributor to the Fund for 2009.
“This is a generous and much appreciated contribution from Qatar, to the CERF as well as for the UN’s critical humanitarian work in Gaza,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes. “The US$10 million donation to the CERF is especially significant, as it allows the United Nations to allocate the funds based on need to other parts of the world that are often overlooked. I hope that other potential donors will follow suit, as humanitarian needs will only grow in 2009, considering the combined threats posed by intensified conflicts, climate change, the global food crisis and the global economic slowdown.”
Speaking to the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), the Special Humanitarian Envoy for the Secretary General, Mr. Abdul Aziz Arrukban, said, “the Qatari contribution came at the right time when UN agencies are in need of funds to support their operations in Gaza. We have started to see that the partnership between the UN and Arab countries is becoming closer”.
Of the US$30 million that will go towards meeting the critical needs of Gazans affected by the recent military operation, US$10 million has been allocated to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for life-saving activities, and US$10 million will be contributed to the World Food Programme’s emergency food assistance for more than 1 million Gazans. US$5 million has been allocated for humanitarian programmes of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and US$2.25 million for the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s activities in support of the damaged agricultural sector. The remaining US$2.75 million will go to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for coordination and advocacy activities.
>On 28 February, the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company announced a donation of US$ 150,000 to the CERF.
>The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) reported on 10 February that the shortfall of rain for this year is also compounding the water shortage situation in the West Bank. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, in some governorates the level of rainfall is less than half of the previous winter, and is significantly below the historical average. FAO highlighted the likely impacts on the farming community, including a decreased pumping capacity for wells, insufficient water reserves for people to survive the summer, and damage to rain-fed crops such as olives (for the full report, please visit www.fao.org). OCHA, FAO and UNICEF have compiled a Drought Response Strategy, a framework for the preparation and response to the West Bank Drought that targets an estimated 250,000-500,000 people. The emergency response will aim to improve the water harvesting infrastructure, distribute food, seeds and fodder, and implement water trucking when no other water sources are available.