Press Releases

    PAL/1902
    1 February 2002

    UNRWA LAUNCHES EMERGENCY APPEAL
    FOR WEST BANK AND GAZA STRIP

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 31 January (UNRWA) -- The deteriorating conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip after 16 months of strife, closures and sanctions have compelled the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to appeal to the international community for $117 million in emergency funds for 2002. The UNRWA will use the emergency funding to provide food aid, medical care and work programmes to alleviate the worst of the suffering among the 1.4 million refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory.

    Many thousands of Palestinians have lost their livelihoods because of closures imposed on their communities -- there are now 72 permanent Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank and nine in Gaza. The destruction of agricultural crops has added to the hardship, and fully half the population is now living in acute poverty.

    The UNRWA plans to distribute $26 million of food aid to 217,000 of the very poorest families in the West Bank and Gaza. An additional $55 million needs to be spent on emergency work schemes that will create more than 2 million job opportunity days. For 40,000 of the most desperate households –- often those with no breadwinner –- UNRWA will distribute cash, clothing and other in-kind assistance.

    More than half of the 843 Palestinians killed by the middle of January 2002 were refugees registered with UNRWA. Thousands more have been injured. The UNRWA plans to spend $4.3 million on emergency medical supplies, supporting mobile health teams for the West Bank and other badly-needed clinical services.

    Tragically 29 children enrolled in UNRWA’s schools have been killed, and another 800 have been injured. Teachers have not been able to get to their schools, and the combination of lost days and trauma has caused exam results to plummet. Hardship is causing university students to drop out of class. The UNRWA plans to spend $5 million on compensatory education for 108,000 pupils, trauma counselling, university grants and other emergency educational needs.

    In the Gaza Strip over 4,500 refugees had been made homeless by the demolition of their shelters, and thousands more have seen their shelters badly damaged. In 2002, UNRWA plans to spend $7.6 million on emergency repair and reconstruction work to provide these refugees with basic accommodation.

    Peter Hansen, UNRWA’s Commissioner General, said: "In an environment of such political uncertainty and instability, it is our hope and expectation that the international community will respond generously to this appeal. In so doing, the world can show its concern for those who have been injured and disabled, the families who have lost their breadwinner or their home and the children who have been traumatized by the daily violence that blights their lives."

    For more information contact: Paul McCann in Gaza on (972) 8 677 7526 or (972) 59 428 008; Rene Aquarone in Geneva on (4) 122 917 1166; or read the full appeal at www.un.org/unrwa/emergency.

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