Oxfam calls on world leaders to lift Palestinian aid freeze at Stockholm conference

International agency Oxfam is calling on donor governments, meeting in Stockholm Friday, to resume international aid to the Palestinian Authority in order to address the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

Oxfam believes that the Palestinian Authority stands to lose more than $1 billion following the suspension of aid earlier this year and Israel withholding Palestinian tax revenue, according to UN and World Bank estimates.

Oxfam says that Palestinians are being pushed into deep poverty as a result.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been left without an income. Rubbish is piling in the streets, sewage is overflowing from household cesspits, schools are running without budgets and government employees are striking for lack of pay.

A temporary scheme agreed by donors in June to pay aid directly to the Palestinian people has failed to solve the problem, Oxfam said.

Oxfam International spokesperson Adam Leach said:

“If donor governments are serious about tackling poverty and suffering facing Palestinians, they should immediately resume funding to the local and national authorities charged with delivering essential services. They must also press Israel to transfer Palestinian tax revenues that are being held on behalf of the Palestinian government.

“The temporary mechanism, established to provide direct support to Palestinians, excludes tens of thousands of government employees. Plans to provide payments to the poorest 40,000 Palestinians and their families, who used to receive social welfare payments, have so far failed to materialize.”

Fawsi Sadqi Nasser, an English teacher in the Madama school near Nablus, spoke to Oxfam about the impact of the changes:
“ I am a teacher. The teachers are always waiting for our salaries but now I have not received my salary for months. Life has become extremely difficult. The children in the family feel the situation. At my school, around half of the children’s parents work for the Palestinian Authority. When you look at the children you can notice a change in their faces.”

The donor conference will discuss continuing problems of humanitarian access and movement that remains a significant contributor to poverty. Crossing points into Gaza have been repeatedly closed causing severe shortages of essential supplies, including milk powder and bread and stifling economic activity and trade by blocking the free flow of goods and people. No humanitarian aid has been able to pass into Gaza since 15 August. It has also interrupted the ongoing work of Oxfam partners seeking to rehabilitate water systems.

Notes to Editors:

  • The UK, US, Canada, Norway and the European Commission suspended aid to the Palestinian Authority government following a meeting of the Middle East Quartet (UN, Russia, EU and US) on March 30th 2006.
  • The United Nations estimates that the Palestinian Authority has lost around $500 million from Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax revenues. In 2005, the World Bank reports that international aid to the Palestinian Territories was $1.3 billion. The Bank believes that direct budget support to the Palestinian Authority accounted for $350 million. A further $450 million is provided as technical assistance and $500 million in humanitarian assistance, some of which is also channeled through the Palestinian government.
  • Some international donors continued direct support to the Palestinian Authority, including the Swedish and Russian government.
  • The Temporary International Mechanism was agreed in June by donors to provide limited direct assistance to Palestinians. The mechanism has provided one partial payments for over 11, 000 health workers and 50, 000 of other government employees on low incomes, supporting pensioners, helping to pay hospital costs, and providing fuel for water pumps in Gaza. The $100 million provided by the European Commission together with some additional support from other donors has not replaced the hundreds of millions in lost government revenue.
  • At the international conference, Oxfam is calling on international donors to:
    • Lift the current suspension of aid to the Palestinian Authority
    • Ensure unimpeded and unhindered humanitarian access
    • Ensure the repair of damaged civilian infrastructure
    • Reconsider the Temporary International Mechanism
    • Ensure Israel transfers Palestinian tax revenues
    • Ensure implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access.

For more information contact: Ian Bray 01865 472498 or Andy Hill +972 547 367 669

Document Type: Press Release
Document Sources: Oxfam
Subject: Assistance, Education and culture, Situation in the OPT including Jerusalem
Publication Date: 31/08/2006