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

10 December 2002


JERUSALEM, 10 December -- The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) today launched an appeal to the international community for $94 million needed to allow the Agency to carry out emergency relief work in the occupied Palestinian territory during the first half of 2003.  By comparison, in 2002 UNRWA asked donors for $173 million over the full year and almost $92 million has been pledged to date.

Over two years of violence, curfews and closures have had a catastrophic impact on the humanitarian conditions of the 1.5 million Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank and Gaza.  Around 22 per cent of children are suffering from acute or chronic malnutrition.  Unemployment has risen to above 50 per cent of the population and over 60 per cent is living on less than $2 a day.  Thousands of families have had their shelters demolished or destroyed.  There are increasing signs that Palestinian society is teetering on the edge of collapse.

Under its 2003 appeal, UNRWA plans to launch the largest food aid programme ever seen in the territories.  Around 222,000 families (1.1 million people) will receive regular supplies of iron-fortified flour, chickpeas, olive oil and other staples designed to provide a nutritional safety net for those worst affected by the crisis.  UNRWA requires $32.4 million to put this feeding plan into operation.

UNRWA plans to create almost 1 million job opportunity days for refugees in Gaza and the West Bank, to inject badly needed cash into the local economy and provide meaningful temporary employment.  The Agency will hire additional teachers, medical staff, labourers and others on short contracts to help it implement its humanitarian programmes and to provide breadwinners with a much-needed income.

The Agency also plans a major rebuilding programme to replace or repair shelters that continue to be destroyed or badly damaged in Israeli military operations.  Additionally, UNRWA is asking the international community for funds to supply extra medicines, medical staff and mobile clinics for refugees cut off from health care by curfews and closures.  In the education sector, a large-scale distance-learning project is planned to help children whose education is being disrupted by the long periods when they or their teachers cannot reach their classrooms.

Peter Hansen, UNRWA's Commissioner-General, said:  "UNRWA is the largest humanitarian actor in the region and is the only organization with the kind of infrastructure able to have an major impact on the living conditions for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.  So rapid has been the humanitarian

collapse that it will take an emergency programme of the scale we present today to prevent a complete breakdown in Palestinian society.  It is my hope and my wish that the international community responds generously and urgently to help UNRWA help the Palestinians."

For more information contact:  in Gaza: Paul McCann, Office: +972-8-677-526, Mobile: +972-59-428-008, p.mccann@unrwa.org, in Jerusalem: Sami Mshasha, Office: 972-2-589-0408, Mobile: 972-50-317-094, mshasha@unrwa.org, in New York: Maher Nasser, Office: +1-212-963-2255, nasser@un.org, in Geneva: Rene Aquerone, Office: +41-22-917-1166, raquarone@unog.ch.
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