Commission allocates EUR 28 million for humanitarian aid to vulnerable populations in the Middle East
Brussels, 13 May 2004 – As continued violence and tension threaten to aggravate further the humanitarian situation in the Middle East, the European Commission has allocated €28 million to support more than one million of the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis. Activities will include the provision of food, water, sanitation services, emergency healthcare, psychosocial support, job opportunities, and protection for ambulances and monitoring of the humanitarian situation. Beneficiaries are Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Assistance will be provided also to some 1,500 refugees from Iraq still living in camps in Jordan and in "no-man's land" on the border. The funds are directed through the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) to United Nations agencies, the Red Cross and non- governmental organisations.
Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Poul Nielson, said: "As stability in the region is jeopardised by an upsurge of violence and political tensions, Europe must continue to address the humanitarian consequences of the conflict and protect those who are most vulnerable". He added: "Deteriorating living conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories, resulting from lack of access to food, water, basic services and economic opportunities, are the direct consequences of the escalation of violence. Only a lifting of the closure policy and of the constraints faced in implementing aid programmes can help reverse the situation."
About two million people, almost 60% of the population of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, live below the poverty line on less than €2 per day. Two-thirds of those in the Gaza Strip depend on international humanitarian assistance. Nearly half of Palestinians of working age are unemployed. Some 40% of the population does not have secure access to food, and individual water consumption is half the level recommended by the World Health Organisation. According to the United Nations, the construction by Israel of the "security barrier" in the West Bank and around Jerusalem has already cut off more than 200,000 people from health and education services, water resources and livelihoods. Once completed, it could directly harm 680,000 people. The psychological impact, especially on children, is dramatic.
Actions financed under the present decision include:
- Food aid: More than 480,000 people, including 30,000 highly vulnerable Bedouins, will receive emergency food rations. 240,000 impoverished workers will also be provided with food in exchange for agricultural and community works. In areas where the barrier is being erected and in isolated West Bank villages, the autonomy of households totalling 16,000 individuals will be boosted through food production and agricultural training.
- Water and sanitation: An increasing number of families in the West Bank depend on water brought in by tankers. More than 150,000 people, including in areas affected by the barrier, will be provided with water for drinking and agricultural purposes. Some 220 household and 20 community water cisterns will be built in the south of the West Bank. New distribution systems will provide safe drinking water to 15,000 Palestinians living in unofficial settlements in northern Lebanon, while in the south 4,400 Palestinian households will be connected to improved sewerage networks.
- Health care: Chronic malnutrition has reached 10.7% on average in the occupied Palestinian territories. Since 2002, the quality of food intake has deteriorated, especially among under-fives. A supplementary feeding programme in the southern West Bank will therefore target 24,000 malnourished children. Health services, supplied through mobile teams and clinics, will be funded in remote areas of the West Bank severely affected by movement restrictions, benefiting more than 40,000 people, including 1,000 inhabitants of seven villages sealed off by the barrier. The decision will also fund the provision of medicines for hospitals treating Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Mother and child health care will be guaranteed for 1,500 people who fled last year's war in Iraq and are now hosted in camps at the border with Jordan.
- Psychosocial support: The World Health Organisation recently reported that more than one third of the children under the age of 12 have experienced traumatic events. The decision will finance recreational activities in schools in refugee camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, potentially benefiting 45,000 children aged 6 to 14. Psychological support to Palestinian children in Lebanon will be provided.
- Job opportunities: As a temporary measure to combat widespread unemployment, 30,000 Palestinians who have lost their jobs as a result of the crisis will be given emergency employment opportunities. Another 16,000 workers will be employed on public works and land reclamation activities or will receive professional tool-kits to start a professional activity.
- Protection: Actions aimed at facilitating movement of ambulances within the occupied Palestinian territories and the monitoring of the humanitarian situation, particularly in areas under closures and curfews, will be supported, as well as visits to detainees and communication with their families.
- Coordination between non-governmental organisations, which have implemented 30 to 40% of the Commission-funded humanitarian operations in the Middle East over the past two years, will be strengthened.
The Commission's humanitarian support for victims of the crisis in the Middle East has risen since the start of the second Intifada, from €15 million in 2000 to €38 million in 2003. With this latest decision, the Commission's assistance to the Palestinians since September 2000 amounts to €147 million, making it one of the largest donors of humanitarian aid.