Brussels, 4 January 2009
Louis Michel said: “One and a half million people are crammed into an area that is just over one percent the size of Belgium. They rely on supplies from outside for their survival and, with every day that passes, their situation becomes more desperate. The European Union's humanitarian aid goes impartially to those who are most in need, in line with the principles of international humanitarian law. The obligation to respect these principles is universal and attacks from either side that kill or injure civilians indiscriminately are unacceptable. Blocking access to people who are suffering and dying is also a breach of humanitarian law. I call on the Israeli authorites to respect their international obligations and ensure a "humanitarian space" for the delivery of vital relief.
In 2008, the European Commission provided more than €73 million in humanitarian assistance for victims of the ongoing crisis in the Palestinian Territories of which 56% was for relief activities in the Gaza Strip. Earlier this week, it committed remaining funds from this budget for urgent medical support in Gaza. The latest €3 million - the first humanitarian funding earmarked by the Commission in 2009 - will be focused on food, emergency shelter repairs and further medical support, all areas identified as priorities by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in their flash appeal of 31 December.
The funds are channelled through the Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) under the responsibility of Louis Michel. EU-funded humanitarian projects are implemented by international NGOs, specialised UN agencies and the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement.