Brussels, 29 November 2012
The European Commission's humanitarian support for the Palestinian people: translating solidarity into action
29 November is the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Providing assistance to the most vulnerable Palestinians is an important aspect of the humanitarian work of the European Commission.
Palestinian refugees and non-refugees living in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank continue to suffer from the occupation and need humanitarian aid. Among them are Gaza's 1.64 million inhabitants, most of whom are refugees. In addition, Lebanon hosts 270.000 Palestinian refugees and more than 10,000 new ones who have crossed the border from Syria.
A long lasting humanitarian challenge
In the occupied Palestinian territory Palestinians face a crisis marked by a continuous lack of respect for their basic rights under International Humanitarian Law.
The Gaza blockade severely restricts the movements of goods and people has led to a ‘de-development’ - degrading living conditions, increasing poverty, and a serious decline in essential services and infrastructure. The intensification of forced displacements, demolitions and settlements in the West Bank (illegal under International Humanitarian Law) is increasing Palestinian vulnerability and dependency to external assistance. This long-lasting situation limits access to basic services and the ability to develop or even maintain livelihoods.
In Lebanon, the already difficult situation of the Palestinian refugees is complicated by the arrival of thousands of refugees fleeing Syria. Those registered to UNWRA, the United Nations Agency responsible for Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, receive comprehensive support. However, some Palestinians did not have the possibility to register with UNRWA on time and others found no place in the densely populated camps. The camp of Nahr el-Bared that has been destroyed in 2007 has still not been fully rebuilt and some 50,000 refugees remain displaced.
The response of the European Commission
In the occupied Palestinian territory, the European Commission funds humanitarian projects to the benefit of more than two million Palestinians - inhabitants of Gaza, Palestinians living in the Area C of the West Bank, and Palestinians living in annexed East Jerusalem.
The projects supported by the Commission include emergency response, protection, coordination, food assistance, water and sanitation, but also aim at improving accountability for the respect of international humanitarian law.
The Commission's humanitarian experts monitor what is happening in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip in terms of respect of humanitarian law. It also provides emergency assistance and legal aid to families who are at risk of or are forced to abandon their homes and livelihoods.
Meanwhile in Lebanon, assistance is being provided to around 100,000 vulnerable Palestinians mainly for shelter, access to health care, elderly health care and protection, as well as food assistance for the Palestinians still displaced in the camp of Nahr el-Bared. Emergency support (health, helping prepare for the upcoming winter, food and legal aid) is being provided to Palestinians arriving from Syria and to their host communities.
Since 2000, the Commission has given €640 million in humanitarian support for the Palestinian people. This year, the Commission's funding is : €45 million (€40 million for occupied Palestinian territory and €5 million for Lebanon).
Feeding the most vulnerable
Food is provided to 1.2 million people (food distribution and food vouchers), including 70,000 who receive fresh vegetables in Gaza. The European Commission also supports cash-for work programmes that offer short-term employment to help the most vulnerable Palestinians make ends meet.
Access to healthcare and psychosocial support
The restriction of movement in the West Bank makes it difficult for Palestinians to access basic healthcare. The blockade of Gaza and the recurrent conflicts have resulted in many specialised and life-saving medical treatments being unavailable. The European Commission contributes to the functioning of clinics and to the provision of essential medicines so that over one million Palestinians can access primary healthcare. Psychosocial support is provided to strengthen the resilience and positive coping mechanisms of the population.
Providing clean water
Access to water is one of the most difficult issues faced by Palestinians, particularly in Area C in the West Bank, and even more when the population is affected by drought. The Commission finances programmes that provide 300,000 Bedouins and herders with clean water, through water trucking or through the rehabilitation or construction of cisterns and wells.
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