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Source: European Commission
11 December 2003


Commission provides a further EUR 13 million in humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations in the Middle East



IP/03/1705

Brussels, 11 December 2003

Commission provides a further EUR 13 million in humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations in the Middle East

In response to a continuously deteriorating humanitarian situation, the European Commission has adopted a decision to provide €13 million in additional support to vulnerable populations in the Middle East. Activities will include: (i) the provision of food, water, emergency health care, and job opportunities for vulnerable Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; (ii) health care, water and sanitation services to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon; and (iii) health services for refugees from Iraq hosted in camps in Jordan and in the "no-man's land" between Jordan and Iraq. The funds are directed through the Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO).

Commenting on the decision, Commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, Poul Nielson, stressed that: "decisive steps must be taken to reverse the sharply deteriorating humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza which is making life increasingly intolerable for ordinary Palestinians". He added: "Relief agencies, which face continued and increasing access limitations in providing humanitarian aid, must be guaranteed secure and unfettered access to the populations in need."

In 2002, per capita food consumption in the Palestinian territories dropped to only 58% of what it was in 1998. In Gaza, chronic malnutrition in children under the age of 5 is believed to be widespread. Current daily water consumption in the West Bank is half the amount recommended by WHO; and domestic employment in the Palestinian Territories is down by 32% since the Intifada began. These are just some of the indicators of a humanitarian situation that continues to deteriorate. The situation is being further aggravated by the construction of the so-called "security fence". It is becoming increasingly difficult for the international community to respond. In general, the cost of humanitarian operations may increase by up to 20% as a result of the additional security and bureaucratic obstacles. It is against this background that the Commission will now provide an additional €13 million in humanitarian aid to the region.

Activities financed under the present decision include:

· Food and non-food items: With a view to preventing the malnourishment of children under five and thereby limiting the long term detrimental consequences to their physical and mental health, monthly supplies of food baskets will be given to more than 38,000 children in the Palestinian Territories including their vulnerable families.

· Health: Since 2000, the number of births in the Palestinian territories attended by skilled attendants has fallen by 30%. Because of movement restrictions, 52 women have been forced to deliver while waiting for permission to cross checkpoints. To assist pregnant women living in areas affected by movement restrictions, the decision will finance training and equipment of at least 250 doctors, nurses and midwives. Ambulances will be fitted with up-to-date communication systems, allowing them to respond more speedily and effectively to emergency calls, in particular from isolated locations. Basic health services and physiotherapy treatment will also be provided to Palestinian refugees In Lebanon and in Jordan.

· Household income: 93,000 of the 128,000 Palestinians who were employed in Israel before the Intifada have lost their jobs. An additional 160,000 jobs are estimated to have been lost inside the Palestinian Territories. The current decision will provide jobs for more than 10,000 refugees for up to nine months, indirectly benefiting more than 50,000.

· Water: Access to water is scarce and is continuously worsening. Drinking water supplies to vulnerable households in five West Bank districts will be ensured through new rainwater collection systems and water tankering. Furthermore, water supply systems will be rehabilitated at the Narh el Bared refugee camp in Lebanon which accommodates 30,000 refugees.

· The UN Office for the co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) will receive funds to continue its information and co-ordination activities.

The Commission's humanitarian support for victims of the Middle East crisis has risen since the start of the second Intifada, from €15 million in 2000 to €38 million this year. ECHO's assistance to the Palestinians since September 2000 now amounts to €118 million. Projects funded under this decision will be implemented by UN and Red Cross agencies, and non governmental organisations.


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