DfID boosts UK aid to £65.5 million
Last month the UN and the Palestine Authority issued an appeal for $350 million to plug the gap left by the withdrawal of the United States’ $365 million contribution to UNRWA, the UN agency dealing with Palestinian refugees.
A new assessment of humanitarian needs by the UN found that:
- 10,000 Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank are at risk of forcible transfer
- 13,000 homes in Area C have demolition orders not yet carried out
- 25,000 Palestinians (including 6,250 children) have been injured by Israeli forces or settlers in 2018
- 26,000 children in Gaza are in need of mental and psychosocial health support
- 70% of UN schools in Gaza operate two or three shifts a day
- 96% of water extracted from the Gaza aquifer is unfit for human consumption
According to the UN: “Following a deterioration of the humanitarian situation during 2018, some 2.5 million people have been identified as in need of humanitarian assistance and protection in 2019.
“The long-standing Israeli blockade and the internal Palestinian political divide are expected to continue, alongside demonstrations, clashes and casualties.
“As a result, the health system in Gaza is likely to remain overstretched, clean water and sewage treatment will be insufficient, and unemployment will remain severe.
“In the West Bank a coercive environment, including discriminatory planning policies, access restrictions, settlement expansion and settler violence, will continue, placing Palestinians in vulnerable communities in Area C, East Jerusalem and the Israeli-controlled part of Hebron city at risk of forcible transfer.”
The UN’s Relief & Works Agency UNRWA provides assistance for 5.15 million refugees, education for 526,000 children, health centres for 3.1 million patients and basic food rations for 255,000 refugees living in extreme poverty.
UNRWA is funded by a voluntary levy of UN members. The agency runs 59 refugees camps, 143 health centres and over 700 schools for 4.3 million refugees in five countries. It provides emergency rations for 400,000 refugees in Syria and nearly a million in Gaza.
After President Trump’s withdrawal of funds, Alistair Burt announced that the UK was increasing its contribution by £7 million to £60.5 million and added a further £5 million on December 17th to provide emergency food including rice, sugar and chickpeas to 62,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza who are at risk of going hungry. (See link to DfID press release below.)
The minister has however resisted calls from Labour shadow minister Fabian Hamilton and LibDem MP Layla Moran for an emergency conference of donor nations to discuss strategies for dealing with the shortfall caused by President Trump’s announcement.
Pressure has been growing on the minister to take an initiative – in the absence of the Americans – to ensure that the world does not allow another humanitarian disaster to follow on from the starvation in Yemen.
World Bank studies have shown that Palestinian refugees would soon outgrow the need for aid if the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank were lifted. What they need is not aid but action. However in the absence of action, the danger of large-scale starvation is growing.