"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
Brussels, 19 December 2002 - The European Commission is providing a further relief package worth €10 million to Palestinian victims of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. The money will help meet the needs of the most vulnerable and poorest segments of the Palestinian refugee and non-refugee population in the West Bank, Gaza and in Lebanon. Key areas of intervention include the provision of food, health and psychosocial support and water and sanitation. The funds are managed by the Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), which comes under the responsibility of Commissioner Poul Nielson. This decision brings the amount allocated for the region in 2002 to €35 million. The funds made available will be channelled through experienced Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Commenting on the decision, Commissioner Poul Nielson said: "The prolonged conflict in the Middle East has driven the West Bank and Gaza Strip into a state of deep crisis. The Commission is committed to showing solidarity to those Palestinian people experiencing great hardship. We will continue to provide humanitarian support where it is most needed. Again, I have to underline my concern at the difficulties being faced by humanitarian operators in the West Bank and the Gaza strip. I repeat my call to the Israeli authorities to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law in order to ensure that humanitarian assistance is provided under acceptable conditions and guarantees".
The serious humanitarian crisis affecting the West Bank and Gaza Strip is mostly due to the dire state of the Palestinian economy since the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000. Unemployment rates have doubled in the Palestinian territories over the last two years to reach 50%. Almost half of the three million Palestinians receive food assistance from NGOs and 85% of people in Gaza are living on less than €2 per day. This has serious consequences for their health as neither patients nor health facilities can afford medicines and access to health facilities is often denied.
Furthermore, clean water has become scarce and people are increasingly drinking polluted or contaminated water, leading to a spread of water-borne diseases. The violence in the Palestinian Territories has also led to a huge increase in mental health problems such as anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder, especially among adolescents.
In Lebanon, over 400,000 Palestinian refugees continue to depend on assistance from the international community. For the most part, these people are excluded from state support, banned from working and live in cramped, overcrowded and unhygienic camps with inadequate or no water supply.
The Commission has a long-standing commitment to help all the victims of the Middle East crises. Its support to the region amounts to over €88 million since 2000.