The United Nations is asking donor countries to contribute over $500 million now so it can meet the urgent humanitarian needs of Palestinians whose homes and other buildings are liable to be demolished in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this year, assuming Israel’s demolition policy doesn’t change.
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The money is also intended to fund legal advice and social and psychological assistance for people, especially children, who lose their homes to demolitions. Most demolitions take place in East Jerusalem and Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control.
The UN says the money is needed in part to maintain Palestinians’ resilience in the face of Israeli pressure.
In 2016, as of December 28, the Israeli authorities had razed or confiscated 1,089 Palestinian buildings in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The demolitions, whose pretext was that the buildings were built without a permit, left 1,593 people homeless and impaired the livelihoods of another 7,101, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This is the highest level OCHA has recorded since it began documenting demolitions in 2009.
Altogether, the UN is seeking to raise $547 million to deal with humanitarian problems caused by Israeli policy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2017; assistance for Palestinians whose homes are liable to be demolished is only one of many items on which the money would be spent. About 70 percent of the total is earmarked for the Gaza Strip, while 52 percent will be allocated to UNRWA, which assists Palestinian refugees. The latter sum would constitute only part of UNRWA’s total budget.
Ever since 2003, numerous aid organizations active in the West Bank and Gaza have jointly submitted an annual Humanitarian Response Plan for meeting the needs of the most vulnerable Palestinians. The current plan, the 15th in number, was submitted in mid-December.
“International support is critical to continue providing relief to vulnerable Palestinians,” said Robert Piper, the UN coordinator for humanitarian aid and development activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, at a press conference marking the plan’s submission. “But we are just trying to buy time – this humanitarian response must be coupled with bold political action to bring the world’s most protracted protection crisis to a close,” he added, referring to the need to protect Palestinians against violations of international humanitarian law.
1.8 million Palestinians need protection
The UN estimates that 1.8 million Palestinians – some 37 percent of the 4.8 million in total who live in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – need legal, material and other types of protection against Israeli policy. These include 1.6 million people suffering from moderate to severe nutritional insecurity, most of them in Gaza.
In addition, more than 50,000 Gazans who lost their homes in the Hamas-Israel war of summer 2014 remain homeless. And in the West Bank, some 8,000 Palestinians are at high risk of being evicted from their current place of residence, while thousands more have limited access to vital services like health care, water and education.
The $547 million would be used to carry out 243 different assistance programs run by 95 different organizations – 47 Palestinian NGOs, 35 international NGOs and 13 UN agencies.
Of this money, around $300 million would be used to provide nutritional security to the 1.6 million Palestinians without it. Another $104 million would provide housing solutions and other physical assistance to some 165,000 people, including 150,000 in Gaza.
In addition, $54 million would go to social and psychological support, legal advice and representation, monitoring Israeli violations of international law, and locating and disarming unexploded Israeli ordnance; $37 million to supplying safe drinking water, toilets, waste disposal and other hygienic services to some 500,000 people, including 330,000 in Gaza; $13 million to health care and rescue services for 500,000 people, including 330,000 in Gaza, and especially Gazan farmers living near the Israeli border, where there are no Palestinian Authority or UNRWA health clinics; and $20 million to assisting schoolchildren.