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Select Committee on International Development - Uncorrected Written Evidence


35.Memorandum submitted by UNRWA

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  1.  Since the outbreak of the intifada in 2000, the conflict in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) has further worsened the already vulnerable situation of the Palestine refugees and presented the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) with new challenges in continuing to provide essential humanitarian assistance to the refugees. World Bank socio-economic indicators illustrate the dire context in which the Agency, as well as other service providers in the OPT, are operating: approximately 60% of Palestinians live on less than US$ 2 per day, and about 40% of Palestinians are unemployed. In response, UNRWA has complemented its regular education, health, relief, microfinance and social services with emergency interventions focused on: (1) addressing the refugees' basic short-term needs; and (2) initiatives that address more long-term effects of the current situation aimed at preventing large-scale damage to physical and human capital. It is the view of the Agency that even under the best economic scenario for 2003-04, poverty and unemployment rates will continue to remain high in the OPT, thereby rendering it essential for the donor community, including the UK and EC, to focus on maintaining their commitment to emergency humanitarian interventions.

  Since the early 1990s, UNRWA's operations in the OPT have increasingly taken on a development orientation. The UK and EC development assistance extended to the Palestine refugees through UNRWA in the OPT has played a critical role in the construction and rehabilitation of essential infrastructure for provision of basic education, health and environmental sanitation services. Internally, UK assistance has been critical in upgrading management information systems and in implementing technical, programme and management reforms in the Agency.

  Israeli imposed restrictions on movement of persons and goods, Israel's continued construction of the separation barrier in the West Bank, and the continued expansion of its settlements and settlement-related infrastructure in the OPT, have compounded the difficulties faced by the Palestinians in the OPT and by UNRWA and the various other humanitarian organizations working in the area. UNRWA provides essential services to approximately 50% of the Palestinian population of the OPT, making it a principal component of the infrastructure of Palestinian development. UNRWA's assets (both material and human) have a key role to play in the development of the OPT, and the Agency is currently working closely with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and other actors on medium and long term development plans. A shortfall in funding requirements for UNRWA's January-June 2003 Emergency Appeal has severely compromised the Agency's emergency interventions in the OPT, particularly in respect of emergency food distributions, shelter rehabilitation and construction, cash-assistance, and emergency health, remedial education and job creation activities. Should political developments facilitate a move towards socio-economic reconstruction and rehabilitation in the OPT, the donor community, including the UK, should provide increased assistance to the PA, UNRWA and to civil society institutions. Support for international agencies in the OPT, such as UNRWA, is complementary to that provided directly to PA institutions, the consequences of which are mutually reinforcing. Noteworthy in this regard is that there is little or no overlap between the scope of responsibility of UNRWA and the PA.

INTRODUCTION

  4.  UNRWA is one of the main service providers in the OPT, providing essential humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees through its education, health, relief and social services, micro-finance and micro-enterprise programmes. In the Gaza Strip, there are approximately 907,000 registered refugees (67% of the population), while in the West Bank that figure is around 655,000 (28% of the population). Although the social, political and economic contexts in which the Agency has provided its services over the years have always presented a challenge, the period since the outbreak of the "Al-Aqsa intifada" in September 2000 has been particularly difficult. After almost 35 months of conflict, some 2,400 Palestinians have been killed, with approximately 23,500 injured, a good many of them registered refugees. During the same period, some 800 Israelis have been killed, with approximately 5,800 injured. Israeli measures taken in the OPT, principally the widespread imposition of closures and curfews, have had a devastating socio-economic impact on the Palestinians, particularly on the already vulnerable refugee segment of the population.

  5.  The extent of Palestinian socio-economic devastation over the last 35 months is best illustrated in World Bank statistics. According to the Bank, approximately 60% of the Palestinian population in the OPT were living below the poverty line of less than US$ 2.1 per day as of December 2002. This represents a tripling of the figure of 21% of Palestinians who were below the poverty line on the eve of the intifada. Furthermore, the poor are also getting poorer. Whereas in 1998 the average daily consumption of a poor person was equivalent to US$ 1.47 per day, as of the end of 2002 that figure fell to US$ 1.32. This is of even greater concern when one takes into account the 13% growth of the Palestinian population in the OPT over the past three years. By the end of 2002, Palestinian real Gross National Income (GNI) had plummeted by 38% from its 1999 level. Altogether, GNI losses reached US$ 5.2 billion as of December 2002, a figure equivalent to almost one full year of Palestinian wealth creation. Real annual change in per capita GDP has plummeted from 3.9% in 1998 to -22.5% in 2002. As of December 2002, Palestinian unemployment in the OPT was 37%, after having reached 45% in September 2002—the recent improvement being accounted for by short-lived olive and citrus harvests. Nearly 100,000 Palestinian workers have lost their jobs in Israel since September 2000, leading to a 76% decline in Palestinian worker remittances from US$ 328 million in Q3 2000 to US$ 79 million in Q1 2003. With lower incomes and higher poverty, dependency ratios for the population soared as much as 50% from 4.3 in Q3 2000, to 6.6 in Q1 2003 in the West Bank, and from 5.9 to 7.5, respectively, in the Gaza Strip. During the past five years, the real annual change in fixed investment in the Palestinian economy has dropped from 8.4% in 1998 to -44% in 2002. Israeli restrictions and closures have crippled foreign trade, with the real annual change in exports falling from 6.6% in 1998 to -24.3% in 2002, with the figures for imports standing at 7.4% and -12.9% respectively.

  6.  It is in this dire context that UNRWA has sought to provide emergency humanitarian services, alongside its regular programme interventions in the OPT. The Agency has adopted a two-pronged approach in its emergency interventions: (1) addressing the refugee population's basic needs through inter alia food aid, cash assistance, and shelter repairs on the one hand; and (2) implementing activities addressing the longer term effects of the current situation on the other, such as infrastructure maintenance through emergency employment generation, remedial education and psycho-social support, with a view to preventing large-scale damage to physical and human capital. Between April and June 2003, the Agency's emergency food assistance benefited approximately 195,000 families in the West Bank and Gaza fields, totaling close to one million beneficiaries. Likewise, UNRWA hired approximately 41,000 people since the start of the emergency appeals in late 2000, who in turn were able to support over 250,000 dependants.

  7.  It is against this social, economic and political backdrop that the Agency makes the following submissions to the International Development Committee of the British House of Commons regarding the matter of development assistance in the OPT.

UK AND EC DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE TO UNRWA

  8.  UNRWA's operations in the OPT have increasingly taken on a development orientation, especially since the early 1990s. With the launching of the Madrid process and the signing of the Oslo Accords, the UN General Assembly passed resolution 48/40 on 10 December 1993. Noting that this "new context . . . will have major consequences for the activities of the Agency," the General Assembly called upon UNRWA "to make a decisive contribution towards giving a fresh impetus to the economic and social stability of the occupied territories." UNRWA launched the Peace Implementation Programme (PIP) in October 1993 aimed at making the results of the peace process felt at the local level through a wide-ranging investment programme to develop infrastructure, improve living conditions and create employment opportunities in refugee communities. The first phase of PIP was developed following consultations with UNRWA's major donors, host governments and the Palestinian leadership. It drew upon the recommendations of the Secretary-General's 1993 task force on the economic and social development of the Gaza Strip and Jericho. The second phase of PIP was launched in September 1994 in close coordination with the PA and the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR). PIP II, while sharing the same basic goals as PIP I, laid additional emphasis on projects that would minimize subsequent recurrent costs and those that would complement projects undertaken directly by the PA. PIP projects reinforced and supported the Agency's regular programmes by helping to maintain infrastructure at standards necessary for adequate provision of services. These projects include construction of schools, additional classrooms, primary care health centres, and mother and child health clinics. A special focus of PIP was environmental sanitation projects, especially in the Gaza Strip. These projects improved sewerage, drainage and water supply systems, garbage collection and disposal mechanisms, shoreline protection and aquifer renewal. In addition, during the current intifada, UNRWA has invested US$ 18.64 million in 23,665 loans to microenterprises that have helped businesses survive and provided support to families.

  9.  Enclosed at Appendix I is a detailed listing of UNRWA projects funded by the UK and EC, including ECHO-funded projects since 1993. The UK and EC development assistance extended to the Palestine refugees through UNRWA in the OPT has played a critical role in the construction and rehabilitation of essential infrastructure for provision of basic education, health and environmental sanitation services. By way of illustration, the impact of these projects at the ground level in the case of two of the larger projects in the Gaza Strip is as follows:

    —  Construction of Sewerage and Drainage Systems in Beach Refugee Camp, North and South. This was one project in a series of initiatives to improve the environmental health conditions in Beach Camp, and with its implementation the whole of the camp was connected to the sewerage drainage system. Before 1995 only 30% of the camp was connected; consequently, seepage pits contaminated the ground water and overflowed into surface drains. Sewage and polluted storm drainage water posed a direct health threat in terms of diarrhoea and dysentery. Parasites were alarmingly common. This UK-funded project covered around 65% of the total area of the camp, benefiting approximately 49,000 persons. A comparative study on the environmental conditions in the camp (1st phase March 1994, 2nd phase August 1999) indicates that investment in the infrastructure has had a marked positive effect on the incidence of disease in the camp.
FindingsFirst phase Second phase
Prevalence of parasites (%)58.7 36.5
Prevalence of ascaris (%)57.6 16   
Prevalence of giardiasis (%)29    17   
Prevalence of amebiasis (%)  4.7   2.8
No of ascaris eggs in the soil10      3.3
Fly index27   27   
Rat index  2.2  1   
E coli index25% positive All negative
No of diarrhoeal cases/week56    15   
No. of dysentery cases/week19      2.8

    —  Completion of European Gaza Hospital. The construction of the European Gaza Hospital funded by the European Commission saw a 24% increase in the number of hospital beds available in the Gaza Strip and significantly improved advanced health service delivery.

  10.  The significant investments by the international community in refugee camp infrastructure and refugee human capital in the OPT through UNRWA faced a serious threat as a result of the strife engulfing the OPT since September 2000. It is the view of the World Bank and other humanitarian organizations that the primary reason for the decline in infrastructure and human capital levels over the last two and a half years in the OPT is the economically stifling political and military policies of Israel. The extent of UK and EC funding, including ECHO funding, of UNRWA's emergency appeals is outlined in Appendix II. Such assistance prevented the vulnerable refugee community from further descent into poverty. However, donor assistance, including from the UK and EC, cannot be the primary means of poverty alleviation over the long run. While a resumption of labour exports to Israel would give the Palestinian economy a short-term boost, long-term and sustainable economic and social development of the OPT is contingent on a resumption of the political process and structural changes in the Palestinian economy focused on a goods-based export policy and diversification into regional markets. As the World Bank recommends, a long-term and diversified Palestinian development and growth strategy must not perpetuate the current overwhelming dependence on Israel.

  11.  According to the World Bank analysis, donor commitments to infrastructure and capacity building work with a medium-term focus in the OPT fell from US$ 482 million in 1999 to US$ 197 million in 2002. Whereas in 2000 the ratio of overall development and emergency donor assistance to the OPT was approximately 7:1 in favour of development assistance, by 2002 the ratio shifted to almost 5:1 in favour of emergency assistance. While there has been a recent refocus by some donors following the launch of the "Road Map", the view of the Agency and other humanitarian actors in the field, is that even under the best economic scenario for 2003-04, poverty and unemployment rates will continue to remain high. In the best case scenario, the World Bank estimates that the poverty rate will be 49.6% in 2003 and 44.5% in 2004, with respective unemployment rates of 28.9% and 25.3%. Such being the case, it is essential for the donor community, including the UK and EC, to focus on maintaining their commitment to emergency humanitarian interventions even as they consider a fresh focus on development oriented interventions.

  12.  In this context, UNRWA received just 34% of the total funding requirements for its January-June 2003 Emergency Appeal. The extent of this shortfall has severely compromised the Agency's emergency response in the OPT. Food distributions were halved in the Gaza Strip, with only four of the eight food rounds required being provided for. The West Bank is reducing the volume of food provided to beneficiaries to stretch existing stocks. Despite these cutbacks, the Agency used up its remaining food reserve stocks in the Gaza field by the end of August, and in the West Bank, stocks will last only until the end of October. Due to funding shortfalls, the Agency was obliged to drastically reduce its emergency re-housing programme. In the Gaza field, only US$ 75,000 of the US$ 7.7 million required for re-housing was available in the first six months of 2003. With these funds, the Agency was able to purchase only tents, blankets and mattresses for those made homeless by recent IDF house demolitions (a total of 112 shelters were demolished in the Gaza Strip in the month of May alone). Needless to add, even as the demand for shelter rehabilitation and construction continues to rise, the Agency was unable to meet the needs of families whose shelters were destroyed in the past three years. In the first half of 2003, cash assistance was drastically reduced from US$ 3.4 million to US$ 950,000 in the Gaza Strip and of the US$ 3.3 million required in the West Bank, only US$ 2,600 was allotted. This has meant that the large number of destitute families could not be assisted with cash for basic needs such as cooking fuel. Furthermore, of the US$ 2.7 million required for the emergency health programme during January-June, only US$ 750,000 was allotted. Funds available for hospitalisation in the West Bank field are barely sufficient to provide services to those with life-threatening conditions. Serious under-funding has crippled UNRWA's efforts to improve environmental health conditions severely affected by recent IDF activity which damaged sewage lines and waste removal facilities. UNRWA could not provide any funds towards the US$ 3.8 million requested for emergency remedial education and after-school activities in 2003. While a total of 41,215 Palestinians have been hired by UNRWA under its direct employment programme in the Gaza field, no funding was available in the first half of the year to support planned indirect hire activities for the construction of vital infrastructure. In the West Bank field , the planned 1,600 active monthly contracts were reduced to 1,300, and no new contracts for community based projects were issued.

ISRAELI MOVEMENT RESTRICTIONS: IMPACT ON HUMANITARIAN OPERATIONS

  13.  UNRWA now imports 105,000 tonnes of basic food commodities into the West Bank and Gaza Strip annually, 90,000 tonnes in connection with its emergency programmes and 15,000 tonnes for its regular programmes of assistance. These quantities are the equivalent of 5,200 20ft containers.

  14.  Since the start of the intifada the Israeli authorities have instituted new procedures for searching cargo delivered to the Port of Ashdod. Containers are opened and random samples of the contents are x-rayed. These searches have led to considerable delays and additional loading, offloading, storage and demurrage costs to the Agency. Between 1 September 2000 and 1 February 2003, UNRWA incurred an additional US$ 1.78 million in storage and demurrage charges on its imports of basic commodities. Fees levied at the Karni crossing into the Gaza Strip account for a part of these additional costs. Since October 2000, United Nations-owned trucks have been barred from moving into or out of the Gaza Strip. The Agency delivers its shipments to the Gaza Strip on leased trucks through the Karni crossing. The Israeli authorities levy a transit charge of approximately US$ 35 for a 20ft container and approximately US$ 45 for a 40ft container entering the Gaza Strip and, since mid-August 2002, a charge of approximately US$ 35 on empty containers leaving the Strip. Karni handles approximately 60-80 trailers per day (120-160 containers), with the UN's daily priority allotment changing regularly. In late May 2003, UNRWA and WFP allowances were reduced to 15 containers each. This was reduced to 10 containers per day following the breakdown of the ceasefire. Discussions to resolve this are ongoing. When deliveries are in full flow, we often need to bring in between 20-30 containers a day (30 being our maximum capacity). Arbitrary and recurrent changes in entry restrictions effected by the Israeli authorities at Karni crossing have a significant negative impact on UNRWA operations. By way of illustration, the total closure imposed by Israel between the end of March and mid-May 2002 forced a one-month suspension of the Agency's emergency food distribution programme.

  15.  The movement of goods into and out of the West Bank on Palestinian licensed trucks is forbidden by the Israeli authorities, and applicable regulations in this regard are continually changed without notice. It is therefore necessary to use Israeli and Palestinian-licensed trucks in tandem. The cost of leasing an Israeli licensed truck is approximately US$ 11 per tonne and the daily cost for a Palestinian licensed truck is around US$ 7. Additional labour costs are incurred in connection with loading and offloading, on average US$ 3 per pallet. Because Palestinian vehicles are banned from a number of main roads linking the cities of the West Bank, long detours result in additional running costs (until recently, the movement of goods between cities in the West Bank was prohibited).

  16.  Restrictions on movement often fluctuate with changes in the security situation on the ground. UNRWA's security office has monitored the flow of Palestinian labourers and goods from the Gaza Strip into Israel on a daily basis since the start of the intifada. (The vast majority cross at Erez checkpoint, with small numbers also able to cross at Sofa checkpoint). According to Agency records, Erez was totally closed to Palestinians for 486 of the first 1,000 days of the intifada:
PeriodDetails
September 2000Approximately 30,000 persons per day[190]
To end of March 2002Dropped almost immediately to zero following outbreak of hostilities, averaging around 2,000/day throughout 2001 and Q1 2002.
Q2 2002Crossing closed from end-March until mid-June.
Mid-JuneDecember 2002The number of workers crossing each day gradually increased from 500 at the end of June to 10,000-11,500 by the end of the year. Note: the number of permit holders was typically 25-30% higher than the number of those able to cross. This remains the case.
Early 2003Checking procedures were tightened at Erez checkpoint. The number of permit holders dropped by around 25% and the number of crossers also dropped, with between 6,000-9,500 regularly crossing.
15-23 March Total closure.
16 April-1 JuneTotal closure, except on 11 May, coinciding with a visit to Israel by US Secretary of State Powell.
1-8 JuneReopened, with up to 9,500 labourers crossing each day.
8-30 JuneAn attack at Erez industrial zone on 8 June saw the crossing closed until 30 June, the day after the main Palestinian rejectionist groups agreed to a three-month ceasefire.
1 July-19 AugErez crossing was reopened coupled with a steady increase in the number of permits issued and daily crossers. By 12 August 17,000 permits had been issued and 12,500-13,500 labourers were able to cross. Palestinians under the age of 28 are prohibited from crossing for work.
20 Aug—Erez crossing has been completely closed to Palestinians.

  17.  Taken together, restrictions on movement of persons and goods, imposition of new charges, higher transport costs and the time taken to import or export goods severely impede economic development in the OPT.



SEPARATION BARRIER: IMPACT ON THE REFUGEES AND UNRWA OPERATIONS

  18.  The Government of Israel has continued construction in the West Bank of the separation barrier (also referred to as the "wall"). This began in June 2002 and is being built well inside West Bank territory through large-scale expropriation and de facto annexation of Palestinian land. Available reports suggest that the barrier is planned eventually to surround the area of the West Bank in which the bulk of the Palestinian population is located and, by means of subsidiary "depth barriers", fences, and trenches, to enclose many West Bank towns and villages inside separate enclaves. One of the first phases of this complex project, a barrier of more than 120 kilometres which traverses the Jenin, Tulkarm and Qalqilya governorates, was completed in July 2003. The barrier is some 70 metres wide on average, extending up to 100 metres in some areas. At its most extensive, it consists of an electronic "smart fence" in the centre; on the eastern side there is a trench, ditch or other obstacle to act as a barrier against vehicles, a razor-wire fence and a paved service road; west of the "smart fence" are a trace path to disclose the footprints of anyone crossing, a two-lane patrol road, a road for armoured vehicles and another fence. In some sections, notably west of Tulkarm town and Qalqilya, the central fence is replaced by a concrete wall approximately eight metres high. The barrier also includes watchtowers and entry gates. In some areas, local residents have been informed that a "no go" or buffer zone of undefined extent on the "Palestinian" side of the barrier will also be imposed, although there has not yet been any official confirmation of this.

  19.  Even though not yet completed, the barrier is already having a major adverse impact on the local Palestinian population, including significant numbers of registered refugees, who have lost agricultural land to the barrier itself and are faced with difficult problems of access to land and water resources now isolated on the other side of the barrier from where they live. In the future, the local population will have increasing difficulty in getting to essential services, such as schools, hospitals and places of work. UNRWA is particularly concerned about the impact the barrier will have on its ability to continue to provide essential humanitarian services to registered refugees and other persons in need throughout the West Bank. The Agency estimates that in the Jenin, Tulkarm and Qalqilya governates alone over 200,000 people will be adversely affected, including nearly 15,000 refugee families, who will constitute approximately 30% of the total impacted population. Most affected will be 14 communities which will be completely isolated between the main separation barrier and the "Green Line", numbering approximately 13,500 Palestinians, including an estimated 375 refugee families. Additional enclaves will be created to the east of the barrier affecting 15 communities numbering approximately 140,000 Palestinians, including over 13,000 refugee families. The towns of Qalqilya and Tulkarm are to be fenced off completely, allowing access only through a limited number of gates manned by Israeli forces. Movement into Qalqilya, for example, will be possible only through one gate to the east, severely affecting refugees who rely on the UNRWA hospital and three UNRWA schools there. Plans to enclose Tulkarm and its immediate hinterland between a concrete wall to the west and a 10 kilometre-long "depth barrier" to the east will have a similarly negative impact on the approximately 8,000 refugee families who reside in Tulkarm and its two adjoining refugee camps. Refugees constitute a particularly vulnerable group amid the general population and, when the barrier is completed, are likely to face a further sharp decline in living standards and increased dependency on outside humanitarian aid. This would add to the Agency's already over-burdened caseload and further strain its limited resources. A detailed Agency study on the wall may be accessed at: http://www.un.org/unrwa/emergency/stories/barrier/part01.html.

SETTLEMENTS: IMPACT ON THE REFUGEES AND AGENCY OPERATIONS

  20.  In the Gaza Strip, roads linking the settlements to Israel cut across the main north-south traffic arteries. Military checkpoints allow the Israeli authorities to control movement of goods and personnel. In addition, these checkpoints cut the Gaza Strip into three separate sections, and allow the Israeli military authorities to impose internal closures at will. The impact of such settlement-related infrastructure on UNRWA's operations provides a useful indicator of their effect on the normal flow of life in the Strip. Over 750 UNRWA staff members (10% of the total workforce) daily cross the checkpoints to reach their place of work. When the coastal road and the Abu Houli checkpoints are closed they are either unable to reach their duty stations or forced to work reduced hours (when only the Abu Houli checkpoint is closed, approximately 350 staff are affected). The Agency estimates that between September 2000 and July 2003, 395,000 working hours had been lost by all non-teaching staff, in addition to almost 200,000 teaching days. UNRWA Gaza records indicate that Abu Houli-Gush Qatif checkpoints were totally closed for 39 of the first 1,000 days of the intifada and partially closed for 498 days[191]. Checkpoints at the coastal road (between northern and middle Gaza) have caused staff delays on approximately 100 days since September 2000.

  21.  Restrictions on movement are particularly severe in areas in the Gaza Strip close to settlement blocks, such al-Mawasi, al-Seafa etc. These restrictions include:

    (a)  Palestinian areas adjacent to Dugit Settlement (population of approximately 160): on 21 June 2001 the IDF closed the PA area between Dugit and Ali Sinai settlements and prevented residents from crossing. Since 9 July 2001 the area has been under curfew and partial closure, with residents only allowed to cross between 0700-0900 hrs and 1430-1700 hours.

    (b)  Al Mawasi (population of approximately 6,000): Since September 2000 the Toufah and Tel es-Sultan checkpoints have been closed to vehicles, preventing farmers from effectively marketing their goods and denying pupils access to secondary education. Restrictions on entry have been severe, with both checkpoints sometimes closed for several days or only open for a few hours per day. Age limits have also been enforced, with men under 40 often unable to cross. A curfew was imposed on 12 December 2001 which remained in place until 27 July 2003.

    (c)  Abu Al Ajeen (population of approximately 4,000): A curfew on the Abu Al Ajeen and Qarrara areas, close to Kfar Darom settlement, was in place from 26 Feb 2002 to 27 July 2003.

    (d)  Al Mughraqa (population of approximately 500): A curfew on the area close to Netzarim settlement has been in place since June 2002, although it has been unofficially relaxed since July 2003.

    (e)  Palestinian area northeast of Kfar Darom Settlement (population of approximately 135): A fence has been erected around the Palestinian area with movement in and out only possible during daylight hours. A curfew has been in place since June 2002, although unofficially relaxed since July 2003.

  Throughout the intifada, UNRWA workers have not been afforded regular access to restricted areas to carry out necessary work. Due to Israeli restrictions on the entry of vehicles to Al-Mawasi, the Agency has not been able to deliver food to the residents—many of whom have lost their livelihoods as a result of the intifada—since March 2002[192]. In al-Mawasi, before September 2000, environmental health teams used to visit the area every second day to remove garbage. During 2002, no more than two visits per month were possible. The situation has improved somewhat this year, following the assignment of an Israeli military liaison officer to the area; nevertheless, the Agency is still only able to visit once a week, in view of the time required to negotiate passage across the checkpoint. UNRWA is also not allowed to bring in the necessary equipment to these areas to upgrade the infrastructure.

  23.  The environmental conditions in much of the Gaza Strip are dire. There are a number of interrelated reasons for this: poverty, overcrowding, education levels, access restrictions and, of course, the impact of Israeli settlements. It is estimated that the 6,000 settlers living in Gaza control almost one third of the land and 50% of available water resources. Supplies are also polluted, due in part to the fact that untreated sewerage lakes from Israeli settlements are situated over the ground water stores in northern Beit Lahia and southern Khan Younis.

  24.  Restrictions on the entry and movement of goods and personnel into the Gaza Strip imposed by the Israeli military have led to delays in the implementation of critical infrastructure projects in the areas of water supply, storm water drainage and wastewater collection and treatment. As a result, wastewater pollution of sea and land and underground water has continued and even increased in many areas. Likewise, solid waste has accumulated in the camps and municipal areas with consequent health risks. Restricted access to disposal sites has had other negative results. The municipalities are forced to use temporary dumping sites or increase open burning of waste. In the Gaza Strip alone, four temporary dumping sites have been created with one operated on a piece of land which was originally designated for artificial aquifer recharge.

  25.  The Israeli military has appropriated and destroyed a considerable area of Palestinian land during the course of the intifada. Since October 2000, approximately 10% of the total arable land in the Gaza Strip has been razed by the Israeli military. Whilst media attention has focused primarily on the erection of the separation barrier in the West Bank, land has also been expropriated in the Gaza Strip, much of it close to settlements and border areas, where the Israeli military has created wide "buffer zones". This was the case recently, close to Morag settlement, when an estimated 280 dunums of land (28 ha) was expropriated to make way for a settler bypass road. Likewise, a "buffer zone" 200m wide on both sides has been created along the Karni-Netzarim road and close to Gush Qatif settlement block. The Israeli military is also constructing a "security fence" several hundred metres into the Gaza Strip parallel to the Egyptian border at Rafah, for which it has expropriated considerable land and destroyed dozens of Palestinian homes, including many refugee shelters.

  26.  UNRWA provides services and humanitarian assistance to 648,000 Palestine refugees in the West Bank—175,000 of which reside in 19 camps. Refugees living outside camps suffer the same disadvantages as the general Palestinian population from settlement proximity and by-pass roads. Such problems include severe restrictions on movement; hindered access to water resources and land; damage to agriculture, trade and other productive activities; health hazards deriving from rudimentary sewerage systems, and inadequate waste disposal.

  27.  Camp residents can be in a worse situation than other refugees, as settlers tend to specifically target refugee camps. Incidents of settlers forcibly entering refugee camps and opening fire on the inhabitants and/or their property have been reported, for example in the Arroub camp, in the Hebron area. Most settler attacks are carried out against isolated or small groups of Palestinians and their property.

  28.  The construction of settlement-related infrastructure, such as by-pass roads, has intensified and exacerbated the conflict. Furthermore, UNRWA's projects to improve water infrastructure for Palestine refugees have not been approved by the Israeli authorities over the years. This represents an additional constraint on the Agency's efforts to improve environmental health and water access in the West Bank.

  29.  UNRWA operations are affected by the movement restrictions imposed by the Israeli military authorities across the West Bank, which in many cases are dictated by the location of settlements and related infrastructure. The Israeli military and settler population in the West Bank have and continue to exhibit hostility towards the UN. Forms of harassment by settlers range from cursing and rude gestures (including offensive stickers placed on UN vehicles), to more serious forms of armed attack and attempts at other types of intimidation. UNRWA staff members and vehicles have been shot. Some have been subjected to hit and run attempts by settlers. The most recent incident occurred on 13 May 2003, when a clearly marked UNRWA vehicle was attacked by settlers in the proximity of Yitz'har settlement. The presence of settlements, related infrastructure and Israeli military installations has effectively divided the West Bank into 64 separately enclosed sections.

CONCLUSION

  30.  The dire situation in the OPT today has been the result of a prolonged period of conflict and resultant socio-economic regression. Should the political conditions facilitate a move towards socio-economic reconstruction and rehabilitation, the donor community, including the UK, should provide increased assistance to the PA and UNRWA, as well as to civil society institutions. UNRWA provides essential services to approximately 50% of the Palestinian population of the OPT. Its network of 269 elementary and preparatory schools, four vocational training centres, 52 primary health care facilities, a fully-fledged hospital, 25 women's programme centres and 21 community rehabilitation centres, over 250 poverty alleviation programme projects and an established microfinance and microenterprise programme, has made UNRWA a principal element of the infrastructure of Palestinian development in the OPT. UNRWA's assets (both material and human) have a key role to play in the development of the territories, and the Agency is currently working closely with the PA and other actors on medium and long term development plans. In addition to its tangible assets, the Agency also has the inestimable advantage of a high standing with the local population, who put their trust in UNRWA at times of crisis and rely on its regular and emergency services. The Agency is currently in the process of re-examining its strategies and priorities regarding the medium-term development challenges it faces, and will share its results with the donor community.

7 September 2003


APPENDIX I

UK FUNDED PROJECTS IMPLEMENTED BY UNRWA (1993-2003)
Grant amount
ProjectUS$ equivalent Pledge Year
Upgrading classrooms, Construction of Elem./Prep. Girls school in Beit Ula, West Bank 817,6601993
Sewerage and Drainage Scheme Beach Camp/ and Southern 3,600,0001995
area, Gaza Strip& 1997
HQ Move from Vienna to Gaza and Amman1,000,000 1995
Services provided by KPMG consultants towards New Finance System, Agency Wide 744,6062000-01
Expansion of UNRWA's Family Health Programme, Gaza 641,2711995
Technical Assistance provided by the British Council in Education planning & Education Technical Assistance. Agency Wide 277,2732000
Educational Technical Assistance, Agency Wide 3,600,0002000
Overall procurement, training and consultancy assistance. Agency Wide 621,1252000
Financial Management System, Agency Wide 1,273,8052000
Financial, Payroll and Human Resources, Agency Wide 1,166,8312002
Junior Professional Officer, Gaza107,123 2002
Palestine Refugee Records Project, Agency Wide 1,612,9032003

PROJECTS FUNDED BY THE EC INCLUDING ECHO FUNDED PROJECTS
Amount (pledged)  YearProject ProgrammeEUR US$
1993Emergency donation of food commodities (in kind) (EC) EMLOT9,412,787
1993Distribution and other costs related to food (cash) (EC) EMLOT1,130,359
1993Environmental sanitation in the Gaza Strip (EC) EPA650,000742,348
1993Food storage programme, West Bank (renovation of warehouse for food, Jerusalem) (EC) EPA170,000193,182
1993Shelter rehabilitation, Gaza and West Bank (ECHO) PIP1,800,0002,045,455
1994Emergency Donation of 8,500 tons of Flour for the OT. (ECHO) EMLOT2,227,000
1994Cash for Distribution and Storage Costs of 8,500 tons of Flour. (ECHO) EMLOT450,000557,851
1994Construction/Equipment of schools and W/B (EC) PIP10,000,00012,495,929
1996Cash for Purchase of Flour, G & WB (ECHO) EMLOT280,000353,657
1996Completion of Gaza Hospital (EC) European Gaza Hospital6,700,000 8,267,503
1997Food Commodities, WB & G (ECHO) CSP400,000452,525
1999Medical Supplies, G & WB. (ECHO) 250,000261,780
2000Shelter rehabilitation in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and WB (ECHO) 720,000665,191(US$ 107,046for WB)
2001Environmental and Sanitation Project, Gaza Strip and West Bank (EC) 14,600,00012,852,113

  NB: No contributions were received in 2002 and 2003 towards the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

  EPA: Expanded Programme of Assistance.

  EMLOT: Extraordinary Measures for Lebanon and the Occupied Territory.

  PIP: Peace Implementation Programme.

  CSP: Capital and Special Projects.

APPENDIX II

UK CONTRIBUTIONS TO UNRWA's EMERGENCY APPEALS 2000-03
YearEmergency Appeal US$ TOTAL US$
20007,142,8577,142,857
(GB£ 5 million 1st EA)
20014,347,82612,164,727
(GB£ 3 million 2nd EA)
2,816,901
(GB£ 2 million 3rd EA)
5,000,000
GB£ 3.4 million part of US$ 10 million)
20027,142,85710,267,857
(GB£ 5 million received in March 2002)
3,125,000
(GB£ 2 million received in October 2002)
20032,857,1434,470,046
(GB£ 1.8 million received in March 2003)
1,612,903
(GB£ 1 million staff for Jenin rehabilitation project-2002 EA)
TOTAL34,045,48734,045,487


  NB: Sterling figures are converted at the prevailing monthly rate for the US Dollar set by the UN.

EMERGENCY PROJECTS FUNDED BY THE EC INCLUDING ECHO FUNDED PROJECTS
Amount (pledged)  YearProject ProgrammeEUR US$
2000Emergency medical requirements(ECHO) Flash Emergency Appeal120,000 106,995
2000Emergency food distribution, Phase I(ECHO) 1st Emergency Appeal4,300,000 3,719,725
2000Emergency food distribution, Phase II(ECHO) 1st Emergency Appeal10,000,000 8,650,519
2001Post injury physical rehabilitation(ECHO) 2nd Emergency Appeal1,000,000 875,503
2001Emergency food distribution(ECHO) 3rd Emergency Appeal5,000,000 4,620,616
2001Emergency food distribution(ECHO) 3rd Emergency Appeal7,500,000 6,758,068
2001Rehabilitation of Palestine refugees' shelters, Gaza(ECHO) 3rd Emergency Appeal700,000 621,149
2001Self help shelter rehabilitation, WB(ECHO) 3rd Emergency Appeal500,000 443,678
2001Re-housing of refugees in Gaza Strip(ECHO) 3rd Emergency Appeal1,430,000 1,253,281
2001Community-based activities in WB(ECHO) 3rd Emergency Appeal1,070,000 933,946
2003Emergency food aid in the West Bank (ECHO) 5th Emergency Appeal2,234,400 2,555,148
2003Emergency Food aid in the Gaza Strip (ECHO) 5th Emergency Appeal3,148,047 3,599,949




190   Note: the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimates that the Gaza Strip's workforce was 194,000 persons in September 2000. The 30,000 workers crossing into Israel and the settlements each day represented about 15% of the total workforce and provided 30% of Gaza's real gross national income. Back

191   "Partially closed" is defined as any period of closure other than that enforced for a short time when settler traffic is passing on the settler road. Back

192   Residents have to collect the parcels themselves from Rafah or Khan Younis and pay for their back-to-back transfer into the enclave. Back


 
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