A basis for hope

West Bank, 30 January 2009

George Mitchell, President Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, visited UNRWA’s West Bank Field Office on the 30th of January. Mr. Mitchell was given a briefing of the humanitarian situation in Gaza by John Ging – Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Robert Serry – United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and Lana Abu Hijleh – CHF International country director.

Mr. Mitchell thanked humanitarian agencies, in particular UNRWA and CHF for the work that they had done to channel assistance to the people of Gaza, and praised the ‘dedication and commitment’ of their staff. He also spoke of President Obama’s ‘deep concern’ about the recent loss of life and substantial suffering in Gaza.

Mr Mitchell stated that the United States would ‘continue our efforts, in cooperation with others in the region and elsewhere’, but also said that the tragic violence in recent weeks was a ‘sobering reminder of the challenges at hand and the setbacks that will inevitably come.’ He reiterated the need to consolidate a sustainable and durable ceasefire while addressing the most immediate humanitarian needs and ended by reaffirming the United States’ commitment to ‘actively and aggressively seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as between Israel and its Arab neighbors.’ John Ging, following his briefing with Mr Mitchell, seemed optimistic ‘I now have a realistic basis for hope’ he said.

On his visit, Senator Mitchell also announced that the United States would give a further 13.5 million USD to UNRWA. UNRWA is distributing emergency food assistance, providing medical assistance and temporary shelter, creating temporary employment, and restoring access to electricity and potable water to the people of Gaza.

Today’s contribution to UNRWA augments the $85 million the United States contributed in December 2008 toward UNRWA’s 2009 appeals.  Of that amount, $25 million supported UNRWA emergency operations in West Bank and Gaza.  The remaining $60 million supported UNRWA’s services for Palestinian refugees in the region, including Gaza. 

Commissioner General, Karen AbuZayd, expressed her appreciation to Mr Mitchell. "This is further evidence that our largest single donor continues to give us vital support at a time when the rehabilitation and emergency work in Gaza has never been so important."