‘The patient is dying,’ UN Middle East envoy says

UN Special Envoy to the Middle East, Terje Larsen

Warning of a dire humanitarian situation in the Middle East, the senior United Nations envoy to the region, Terje Roed-Larsen, today appealed to donors gathered in Jerusalem to extend support for a wide range of assistance efforts.

Warning that the current international attempts to help the Palestinian population have had little impact on the spiralling crisis, Mr. Larsen, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said, “There have been inputs, but no impact. In short, the patient is dying.”

The inter-agency conference in Jerusalem set the stage for a $300 million emergency appeal to be launched next week in response to the humanitarian catastrophe in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Mr. Roed-Larsen introduced a UN report that recommended strategies to immediately address the expanding crisis among Palestinians who are suffering unprecedented poverty and unemployment rates.

The conference was attended by 15 UN agencies, key donor countries, and major international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In addition, envoys from the Quartet - the United States, European Union, Russian Federation and UN - participated the day after a crucial diplomatic meeting to refine a comprehensive roadmap for Middle East peace, due to be completed next month.

Participants at the donors meeting noted that humanitarian aid is not the answer to the deepening crisis. They stressed that the crisis is fundamentally political, and will continue to worsen unless political decisions are taken to lift closures, curfews and other restrictions on the civilian population.

“Humanitarian aid has an important part to play in alleviating suffering, but there should be no illusions about the limits that even the most generous assistance can achieve in the current environment,” said Ross Mountain, the UN’s Assistant Emergency Relief Coordinator, who headed the delegation that prepared the report.

The $300 million humanitarian appeal for 2003, to be launched by UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fr�chette on 19 November in Bern, Switzerland, covers emergency funds in addition to current UN expenditures on development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The money will be directed toward meeting the critical needs of the civilian population, including food and nutrition, health, water and sanitation, emergency employment and income generation, and psycho-social counselling.