UN humanitarian appeal calls for $539 million to aid Palestinians

PNN / Bethlehem

During a press conference from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), alongside Palestinian ministers, issued an appeal to the international community to the sum of $539 million to ‘address urgent humanitarian needs of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.’

Should the appeal be successful, it would secure funding for the agency’s 2018 plan which ‘consists of 240 projects to be implemented by 99 organizations, including 51 national and 35 international NGOs, and 13 UN agencies,’ reads the press statement from UNOCHA.

‘Approximately 75 per cent of the requested funds target Gaza, where humanitarian needs are highest due to Israel’s prolonged blockade and recurrent hostilities, further exacerbated by the impact of internal Palestinian divisions and Egypt’s restrictions on the Rafah crossing.’

‘Without donor-funded emergency fuel distributed to critical water, sanitation and health facilities, we would face a total systems collapse, with the result, a humanitarian disaster,’ said UN Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick at the press conference in Beit Lahiya in the Gaza strip.

‘There is no place more fitting to launch the humanitarian plan than Gaza, where we see a man-made tragedy unfolding daily. Today, Gaza is on the brink of catastrophe and humanitarian needs run deep,’ McGoldrick said.

McGoldrick went on to highlight the issues also faced in the Occupied-West Bank, which while, as McGoldrick describes, ‘the volume of needs are less, but (are) no less serious or urgent.’

‘The combined impact of a number of policies has created for many Palestinians, in areas like Area C, East Jerusalem and the Israeli-controlled part of Hebron city, a coercive environment that pressures them to leave and generates a risk of forcible transfer,’ he said.

Communities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are allocated 25 percent of the funding according to the 2018 plan.

In his speech, McGoldrick also raised the issue of defunding to the United Nations Refugee Works Agency (UNRWA), which earlier this year suffered its greatest budgetary shortfall in its 70 year history when the United States decided to withhold $65 million.

‘Against this worrying backdrop of needs in the oPt, the massive funding crisis faced by UNRWA, one of the main service providers and a main employer, particularly in Gaza, should be of concern to everyone, not just Palestine refugees,’ said McGoldrick.

Half of the overall funding amount will contribute to emergency UNRWA projects.

Separately, on Thursday a donor conference is being held to discuss UNRWA’s budgetary shortfall.

In his opening remarks, the Secretary General for the United Nations remarked that, ‘In the early days of the United Nations, the General Assembly created UN Relief and Works Agency to provide Palestine refugees with assistance, and to help them achieve their human potential. Today, UNRWA’s mission is just as crucial as it was sixty-eight years ago. But until a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is achieved, the work of UNRWA remains vital.’

The Secretary General announced a number of emergency measures during his opening remarks, but also underlined the dire state of the agency.

‘Recognizing the urgent needs, the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund is releasing an exceptional combined rapid response grant and loan allocation of $30 million,’ he said.

‘But we must also recognize that the financial crisis facing the Agency today is unlike those in the past. It is far more grave, and threatens to cut programmes far more savagely.

‘For 2018, with pledges reduced, UNRWA faces a shortfall not of millions, not even of tens of millions, but an estimated $446 million. Critical services could be reduced or eliminated entirely – from schools to sanitation, from medicine to microfinance to food security for some 1.7 million refugees in abject poverty or affected by conflict.

‘This would have severe impacts – a cascade of problems that could push the suffering in disastrous and unpredictable directions.

‘So today I ask you to bridge the Agency’s shortfall for 2018 with predictable, sustained and additional funding.’

Further news from the donor conference will follow.