UNRWA Gaza appeal making very slow progress

UNRWA — the largest distributor of aid in Gaza — said it needed over US$5 million for food aid as part of its appeal. (Photo: UNRWA)

JERUSALEM, 11 February (IRIN) - A UN special appeal for the Gaza Strip has managed to bring in only a small percentage of the US$9.8 million needed for urgent food aid and cash assistance for the enclave’s most vulnerable refugees.

On 6 February, UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, began to distribute food aid in Gaza funded by a $100,000 donation from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Red Crescent Society. The money came in response to the special appeal issued by UNWRA in late January.

The UAE donation will pay for food packages sufficient for three months for 2,700 refugees, deemed “special hardship cases” in four camps in Gaza. UNRWA — the largest distributor of aid in Gaza — said it needed over $5 million for food aid as part of this appeal.

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwalid bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud and the Kingdom Foundation donated another $100,000, which UNRWA said would buy fuel supplies. In the appeal UNRWA said it needed nearly $1 million for fuel costs.

However, this is all the special appeal, which initially targeted Arab donors, has managed to collect, with one UNRWA official noting it was “disappointing.”

Unfortunate timing

Aid workers explained that the timing of the appeal was unfortunate in that it coincided with the breaking through of the Rafah border with Egypt. This may have led donors to believe that the crisis UNRWA was trying to cope with had been averted.

Peter Ford, an UNRWA official in Amman, told IRIN: “The humanitarian situation has again become very severe [after the resealing of the Rafah border crossing], and the special appeal remains very much needed to meet the most urgent requirements in the Gaza Strip.”

The special appeal comes on the heels of the 2008 CAP (Consolidated Appeals Process) for the occupied Palestinian territories, in which UNRWA’s emergency appeal was the largest — nearly $240 million.

Aid convoy impounded

Meanwhile, a Jordanian aid convoy of some 16 trucks with humanitarian goods such as food and medicines was allowed by Israel to enter Gaza on 7 February, with the intention of delivering the items to the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS). However, police from the Islamic Hamas movement, which has governed Gaza since a takeover last June, impounded the convoy.

A spokesman for the police said Hamas was the authority in the enclave and would determine how the aid would be distributed.

The PRCS was founded by the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Hamas is not a member, and has ties with Fatah, whose security forces Hamas routed from Gaza in the takeover. Some aid workers felt there was a political element to the decision to seize the convoy.

Jordan reportedly will not cease sending aid to Gaza, in spite of the recent incident.

Hamas rose to popularity in the late 1980s and 1990s in part thanks to its charitable work, including food distributions. After the Hamas election victory in 2006, and the subsequent international boycott of the Palestinian Authority, observers said the organisation began to switch its aid to its own members and supporters.

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