JERUSALEM, 22 January 2008 (IRIN) - UN agencies and aid organisations launched a US$461.9 million appeal on 22 January for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
The appeal by 12 UN agencies, 15 international aid groups and 13 local ones was a "realistic figure" said Max Gaylard, the UN's humanitarian coordinator, noting an increase in poverty rates as well as unemployment.
Most aid would go to economic recovery and infrastructure, food, water and sanitation. The agencies noted a decrease in the supply of drinking water in the oPt.
UN statistics showed that 34 percent of Palestinians were food insecure, while 57 percent lived in poverty - as defined by the Palestinian Authority as individuals living on US$2.8 per day or less. In Gaza that number rose to 79 percent.
There is a "denial of rights" and an "assault on the dignity of Palestinians", Gaylard said, and addressed the geographical fragmentation of the West Bank due to Israeli imposed restrictions on movement.
He said there were "massive" violations of human rights.
Effects of Barrier
Manuel Bessler, the head of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in oPt, said Israel's Barrier would disconnect 10 percent of the West Bank from the rest of the oPt when completed, and other obstacles - including entire sections of the area which were off limits to Palestinians - were harming long-term development efforts and the economy.
He said the number of Israeli-imposed road obstacles in the West Bank had increased in 2007, and there were about 470,000 Israelis living in illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The appeal included development projects, in addition to short-term humanitarian aid. Samir Abdullah, minister of planning in Salam Fayyad's West Bank-based government, said the "full upgrade from relief to development work" would only be achieved if Israel ended its occupation.
The Hamas government in Gaza was not represented at the launch event. Filippo Grandi, the deputy chief of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said "all Palestinian voices" were being heard through the appeal.
Israel's decision to let in fuel to Gaza, to at least partially solve the recent power crisis there, was like feeding "painkillers through a drip feed" into a "body that is very sick," Grandi said, noting that UNRWA's work was being hampered by Israeli limitations on importing building supplies, fuel, plastic bags for food aid, and other items, and by a general feeling of uncertainty.
Grandi, whose agency asked for 51 percent of the appeal, attributed Israel's decision on the fuel to international pressure, while UN humanitarian coordinator Gaylard would only say: "UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about Gaza."
"Basic humanitarian assistance is in jeopardy" and there was a need for "regular access, at least, for humanitarian goods into Gaza", the UNRWA official said, while the economy in the enclave was being "suffocated" by the closures.
Aid could help mitigate the impact of a humanitarian crisis but ultimately a political solution was needed, aid agencies said.
The UN's Security Council was set to meet later on 22 January to discuss Gaza. Israel's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it would oppose any resolution.
"A situation in which the Security Council debates the plight of the residents of Gaza, while completely ignoring the situation of Israelis living under the constant threat of Kassam rockets, is totally unacceptable," said Aaron Abramovich, the ministry's director-general.
The UN's Bessler condemned the "indiscriminate rocket fire", but said the Gaza Strip was "completely isolated" and that needed to change.
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