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Source: European Commission
13 May 2004

Commission allocates EUR 28 million for humanitarian aid to vulnerable populations in the Middle East


Brussels, 13 May 2004 - As continued violence and tension threaten to aggravate further the humanitarian situation in the Middle East, the European Commission has allocated €28 million to support more than one million of the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis. Activities will include the provision of food, water, sanitation services, emergency healthcare, psychosocial support, job opportunities, and protection for ambulances and monitoring of the humanitarian situation. Beneficiaries are Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Assistance will be provided also to some 1,500 refugees from Iraq still living in camps in Jordan and in "no-man's land" on the border. The funds are directed through the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) to United Nations agencies, the Red Cross and non- governmental organisations.

Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Poul Nielson, said: "As stability in the region is jeopardised by an upsurge of violence and political tensions, Europe must continue to address the humanitarian consequences of the conflict and protect those who are most vulnerable". He added: "Deteriorating living conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories, resulting from lack of access to food, water, basic services and economic opportunities, are the direct consequences of the escalation of violence. Only a lifting of the closure policy and of the constraints faced in implementing aid programmes can help reverse the situation."

About two million people, almost 60% of the population of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, live below the poverty line on less than €2 per day. Two-thirds of those in the Gaza Strip depend on international humanitarian assistance. Nearly half of Palestinians of working age are unemployed. Some 40% of the population does not have secure access to food, and individual water consumption is half the level recommended by the World Health Organisation. According to the United Nations, the construction by Israel of the "security barrier" in the West Bank and around Jerusalem has already cut off more than 200,000 people from health and education services, water resources and livelihoods. Once completed, it could directly harm 680,000 people. The psychological impact, especially on children, is dramatic.

Actions financed under the present decision include:

The Commission's humanitarian support for victims of the crisis in the Middle East has risen since the start of the second Intifada, from €15 million in 2000 to €38 million in 2003. With this latest decision, the Commission's assistance to the Palestinians since September 2000 amounts to €147 million, making it one of the largest donors of humanitarian aid.

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