By Jamshed Baruah
GENEVA (IDN) - In the face of humanitarian crisis plaguing Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory – including East Jerusalem – and those who have fled the conflict in Syria, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has launched an $813 million emergency aid appeal.
Speaking to UN News, Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner General for UNRWA said: “Palestine refugees are among the worst affected by the conflict. Over 95 per cent of those who have remained in Syria – 430,000 – are in critical need of sustained humanitarian assistance.”
According to UN News, Mr Krähenbühl said that the fact that 917,000 people are now in need of food assistance, a tenfold increase since 2000, is a “scandal.”
Of the requested $813 million, $402 is targeted for Palestine refugees in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This would allow nearly one million refugees in Gaza to receive food aid and provide rental assistance to 6,500 families who lost their homes during the 2014 hostilities as well as repairs for more than 50,00 families whose homes have been damaged or destroyed. It would also cover food insecure refugees in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Among refugees in occupied Palestinian territory, the rate of unemployment is 43.2 per cent in Gaza and 19.5 per cent in the West Bank. Hundreds of thousands are food insecure and children, especially those in Gaza, require psychosocial support due to trauma.
The remaining $411 million in the request is intended to provide humanitarian assistance, protection, and basic services to 430,000 Palestine refugees inside Syria, 30,000 who have fled to Lebanon, and almost 17,000 who are now in Jordan due to the ongoing conflict.
Some 95 per cent of Palestine refugees from Syria are in dire need of sustained humanitarian assistance. In Lebanon, 50 per cent live in camps and 85 per cent living in Jordan are categorized as vulnerable or extremely vulnerable.
At a news conference in Geneva where the appeal was launched on January 9, Mr Krähenbühl said: “1.6 million Palestine refugees, who are more insecure than ever and whose needs are growing, require our resolute action. I call for urgent and generous support from the international community.”
UNRWA is the largest direct provider of assistance to Palestine refugees who have suffered as a result of the Syrian conflict, providing cash assistance, water and sanitation, food and essential non-food items, shelter, health, education, livelihoods, microfinance, and protection.
The very day the emergency aid appeal was launched, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the Security Council denounced the terrorist attack by a Palestinian who reportedly rammed a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem on January 8.
“The Secretary-General condemns the terrorist attack by a Palestinian assailant” and “conveys his condolences to the bereaved families and wishes a swift recovery to those who were injured,” said Mr Guterres' spokesman in a statement. According to preliminary media reports, the attack killed four and injured 15.
“Violence and terror will not bring a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- quite the opposite,” the spokesman said in the statement. “All those responsible for such acts must be brought to justice, condemned and disavowed. Their acts should not be allowed to deter from the need for a renewed commitment to dialogue,” he added.
In a press statement issued overnight, the Security Council “condemned in the strongest terms” the attack and “reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security”.
“Any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed,” the 15-member body reiterated in the statement, underlining the need for those responsible for this reprehensible act of terrorism to be held accountable.
The Council also reaffirmed the need for all States to combat by all means threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law. [IDN-InDepthNews – 09 January 2017]
Photo: Repairing the water network in Jabalia camp, northern Gaza. Credit: UNRWA/Khalil Adwan
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.