GENEVA – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is increasing by roughly a quarter its 2006 budget for its activities in Israel and the occupied and autonomous territories, bringing the overall figure to more than 52 million Swiss francs. The additional funding will provide the means to meet most acute needs of Palestinians affected by the current crisis, particularly in the faltering health-care sector.
Over seven million of the additional 10 million francs will be allocated to supporting emergency and other essential medical services, most of them furnished by the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), which is the second largest Palestinian provider of care in the occupied territories. The ICRC will fund the purchase of medical supplies and cover salaries and running costs to help the PRCS operate four hospitals, 30 primary health-care centres and ambulance services. The ability to provide these services has been severely jeopardized by the fact that the Society no longer receives funding from the Palestinian Authority.
The ICRC also plans to increase other aid, especially to the communities most affected by restrictions on movement. Ongoing projects aimed at helping people in the northern West Bank and the Gaza Strip to earn a living will be stepped up. In the old city of Hebron, where the ICRC is already providing particularly needy families with food parcels, additional households will benefit.
The ICRC is deeply concerned about the growing needs and the worsening security situation in the occupied territories, caused in large part by the decision earlier this year to withhold funds and other aid from the Palestinian Authority. Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC had repeatedly warned of such a deterioration.
Humanitarian organizations cannot replace the authorities in their role as provider of public services. As the ICRC has pointed out on previous occasions, the occupying power – in this case the State of Israel – is responsible for meeting the basic needs of the civilian population of the territories it occupies. Those needs include sufficient food, medical supplies and means of shelter.
“It is of utmost importance that concerted efforts be deployed by all parties involved to resolve this crisis, before it turns to a major humanitarian emergency”, said Balthasar Staehelin, the organization’s delegate-general for the Middle-East and North Africa.
The ICRC urges all parties concerned to do their utmost to prevent a crisis which would aggravate the hardship of the Palestinian population.