UNRWA ‘Stretched to the Limit’ by Israeli Siege, Appeals for more Emergency Aid
The UN's Palestinian relief agency UNRWA said Saturday it was being stretched to the limit by Israel's "extraordinary siege" of Palestinian towns and villages and appealed for more emergency aid from donor countries, reported AFP.
The head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Peter Hansen, urged the international community not to give in to "compassion fatigue" and come forward with nearly 40 million dollars as fast as it did at the end of last year when violence flared between Israelis and Palestinians, said the agency.
"The Palestinians now are living under what can only be termed as an extraordinary siege. All West Bank towns and villages are sealed off," Hansen told a press conference in Cairo.
Israel has imposed a military blockade on the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Intifada on September 28.
The closure, which prevents Palestinians from working in Israel and limits their ability to travel between Arab-run areas, has caused the Palestinian economy to plummet and poverty rates to skyrocket.
Hansen complained the "siege" is preventing UNRWA from repairing shelters and schools destroyed in the fighting and said the five-month-old uprising had set back its long-term projects by years, AFP added.
"This has generated many more demands on the agency ... and our resources are being stretched to the limit," he said.
UNRWA appealed on February 22nd for 39 million dollars for emergency food and medicines to the Palestinians.
“The current political uncertainty coupled with the worst deterioration in the situation in the occupied territories since 1991, have further heightened refugee concerns and anxieties for the future,” the agency said in a statement.
Unemployment levels in the occupied territories have grown from 11 percent in September 2000 to over 40 percent today, with alarming consequences on the level of poverty among Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, particularly refugees who are more dependent on employment in Israel, the agency said.
"Poverty has become endemic and half of the population in Gaza, and one-third of the population in the West Bank lives below the poverty line," Hansen said.
He added that the money from the new appeal would help give temporary employment to Palestinians hit by unemployment which has risen from an average of 11 percent to as high as 60 percent in some areas since the unrest broke out, AFP quoted him as saying.
It will also finance psychological counseling for those traumatized by the fighting which has left over 400 people dead and thousands injured, many needing artificial limbs from the UN agency's health centers.
"A lot of people ... have been traumatized and we are now creating some innovative programs" to help them, Hansen said.
UNWRA provides aid to around 3.8 million Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and nearby Arab countries, who were made homeless by the fighting that followed the creation of Israel in 1948.
Some 575,000 of them live in the camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip where the current wave of violence has flared – Albawaba.com
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