Palestinian aid appeal for 2019 slashed to $350m

UN official says aid work around the world has been severely affected by funding cuts

A Palestinian demonstrator holds a United Nations' flag during a rally against a U.S. decision to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and in support of president Mahmoud Abbas, in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma
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The United Nations and the Palestinian Authority appealed on Monday for a vastly reduced sum of US$350 million (Dh1.3bn) in aid for Palestinians next year, saying more was needed but they were being realistic after a year of funding cuts.

About 500,000 fewer Palestinians will receive assistance under the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, which focuses on Palestinians most in need of food, healthcare, shelter, water and sanitation, said Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"We will be able to assist fewer people this year, 1.4 million people are being targeted as opposed to 1.9 million last year," he said at the launch of the appeal in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian humanitarian appeal for 2018 was for $539m.

More than three quarters of the funds sought would go to Gaza, the appeal organisers said, because the densely populated coastal strip faced a "dire humanitarian situation" after years of an Israeli-led blockade, Palestinian political divisions and casualties from demonstrations and hostilities.

Mr McGoldrick said donations were down in many areas around the world. But local aid work was hit particularly hard this year when the United States ended funding for UNRWA, the UN agency that helps 5 million Palestinian refugees.

"Humanitarian actors are faced with record-low funding levels of this year, at the same time we face massive and increasing needs," Mr McGoldrick said.

He said agencies faced many difficulties, including the politicisation of aid by "political forces which are using aid or tampering with aid" and attacks on their work by those intent on "delegitimising some of the work of the humanitarian actors".


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Washington promised $365m to UNRWA in 2018, but paid only a first instalment of $60m before announcing in August that it would halt all future donations. The move was widely seen as a means of pressuring the Palestinian leadership to enter peace negotiations with Israel.

The agency was able to make up most of the shortfall thanks to donations form other countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, which each contributed about $50m, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said last month.

Mr McGoldrick said the cuts to UNRWA had caused a "massive impact" on the agency itself, but also led to shortages elsewhere.

"Some donors have probably filled the gaps left by the US, and that has maybe turned them away from other funding possibilities for us in the humanitarian world," he said.

Palestinian Social Development Minister Ibrahim Al Shaer said on Monday that they would not give in to pressure.

"The position of the Palestinian people, its leadership and its government is that we will not drop our legitimate rights for aid and money," he said.

The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — territories that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel says that its West Bank barrier and checkpoints, and restrictions on movement of people and goods to and from Gaza, are security measures necessary to protect its citizens.