UN\'s Palestinian Refugee Agency Faces Funding Shortfall
The UN's Palestinian relief agency said Wednesday it had raised most of the 39.8 million dollars it sought in a three-month emergency appeal, but it faced a shortage in general funding for next year.
Peter Hansen, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), said donors had pledged only 38 million of the 311 million dollars needed to meet UNRWA's running costs in 2001.
"We have a very long way to go and I hope we do not find ourselves in the usual situation with the agency being out of funds for the last two months of the year," he told a news conference here.
He remarked that the Palestinian refugee population, currently 3.8 million, was increasing by five percent a year and said: "you have to have your resources increasing by at least the same amount".
Hansen, who was in New York for a donors' pledging conference on Monday, said, however, that an emergency appeal for 39.8 million dollars launched at the start of November "is fully subscribed".
But he said it was "a drop in the ocean" compared to the losses suffered by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza since bloody clashes erupted there more than nine weeks ago.
"So many people have sunk into poverty, we have to make almost a general distribution to meet urgent and immediate food needs," he said.
In normal circumstances, UNRWA distributed food only to "the poorest of the poor", he said, meaning five percent of West Bankers and eight percent of those in Gaza, but now 85 percent of the population needed food aid.
He said the emergency appeal should cover that, but "there is no guarantee we will be out of the woods" when the three months end.
"Whatever meagre savings people have has run out," he added.
On Monday, the UNs Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories (UNSCO), Terje Roed-Larsen, said the Palestinian economy had lost about 500 million dollars since Israel sealed the territories to halt the violence.
Roed-Larsen told a news conference in Gaza that the Israeli decision was counter-productive, because it put 40 percent of Palestinians out of work, and "unemployment and poverty lead directly to anger and aggression."
Hansen said more than 170 million dollars had been lost in income from workers who used to travel to Israel and whose permits had been revoked.
Another 320 million was lost production in the local Palestinian economy, he said.
International aid to the territories totaled about 180 million dollars in the past six months, he said, and the "losses of the past 60 days far exceed the inflows."
In addition to the loss of income, he said, "we are dealing with very large numbers of people who have been disabled and a great deal of destruction to the infrastructure."
For example, he said, "there used to be orange groves and olive groves" along the main road from Gaza to the Egyptian border crossing at Rafah.
"But they have been almost completely bulldozed away to 200 meters (yards) on each side of the road because the Israelis say it is necessary to deprive stone-throwers of cover," he said.
"It is going to take a very long time to grow new trees in an otherwise rather barren strip of land," he added.
Hansen said the Palestinian Authority had "endeavored to provide modest amounts to the people who cannot make use of their work permits in Israel."
But, he added, "these are very low levels of compensation for loss of income, and many of those who feel they are entitled to it have been protesting their exclusion from the scheme." -- UNITED NATIONS (AFP)
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