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Gaza/Brussels, 26 January 2009

Middle East: Louis Michel announces further € 58 million in humanitarian aid for vulnerable Palestinian populations

European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, announced the planned funding as he visited the Middle East region on a two-day humanitarian mission. Commissioner Michel is using the visit to see for himself the destruction in Gaza following the conflict and to witness just how difficult the living conditions are there for the 1.5 million Palestinian population. He will also visit the Israeli town of Sderot as well as hold meetings with leading Israeli and Palestinian officials.

The European Commission is launching the 2009 Global Plan allocating €58 million to assist the Palestinian populations. From this commitment around € 32 million will be earmarked to respond to the dramatic humanitarian situation in Gaza, €20 million will be for assistance to the West Bank, and the remaining €6 million is destined for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

As Louis Michel toured Gaza's rubble strewn streets amid the bombed out shells of buildings he stated, "Destruction on such a massive scale saddens me deeply. Seeing the catastrophic situation in Gaza with my own eyes makes my call for increased humanitarian action all the more urgent. The civilian population in Gaza has faced terrible and unprecedented suffering over the past weeks and humanitarian aid is now even more vital to their survival than before. This funding package of €58 million will contribute substantially to the international effort on behalf of these suffering people and will also sustain our ongoing solidarity with the entire Palestinian population".

Earlier this month, immediately after the start of the military campaign, the Commission adopted an emergency decision for Gaza to provide €3 million in urgent humanitarian relief.

The new Global plan will enable a response to the desperate humanitarian situation of the Palestinian population. The funding will be used to deliver food assistance, water and sanitation services, shelter rehabilitation, cash-for-work, health and psycho-social support throughout.

A full assessment of the humanitarian consequences and the damage caused by the military operation are still to be fully assessed. Relief needs are expected to be huge. Activities implemented in the Gaza Strip will be part of an early recovery plan which will follow a joint needs assessment being coordinated with multilateral and international donors.

Furthermore, the humanitarian crisis in the West Bank continues within a context of increasing fragmentation and isolation. The growing dependency on international aid and the unremitting deterioration of the socio-economic situation of the Palestinian population contribute substantially to the complexity of this protracted crisis. The humanitarian situation of more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon also continues to be of concern.

All funds are channelled through the Commission's Humanitarian aid department (ECHO) under the responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel. The projects will be implemented by UN agencies, NGOs and the Red Cross/Red Crescent family.

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