The European Commission has adopted a new humanitarian aid decision for €50 million to assist the most vulnerable Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The aid is in response to a situation that continues to deteriorate daily. The objective of the funding is to cover emergency activities: primary healthcare, provision of primary foodstuffs, access to clean drinking water, the creation of more employment opportunities and strengthened protection for civilians. This latest assistance, based on updated needs assessments, comes on top of a €34 million humanitarian aid decision taken in July 2006.

The Palestinian Territories have been experiencing an unprecedented socio-economic and humanitarian crisis since the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000. Earlier this year, following Hamas’ success in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, the government of Israel suspended the monthly transfer of revenues which it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authorities.

 At the same time, donors have reduced various categories of foreign assistance, mainly budgetary support. Further movement restrictions and closures have reduced the import-export flow across Palestinian borders. The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah destabilized the situation even more in the wider region, aggravating conditions further in the Palestinian Territories.

All of this has led further rapid deterioration in an already bleak situation. Most Palestinian Authority employees have not received salaries for several months, and families have exhausted their savings, if any; forcing many households to sell their remaining assets to meet their needs.

The number of people affected by poverty and food insecurity has increased. According to the World Bank, nearly 70% of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip live below the poverty line of $2.30 per day, and almost 40% of people in the West Bank lack regular access to water. The increasing restriction on internal movement has led to widespread food shortages and price increases, with a high impact on vulnerable population groups. Prices of basic food items such as flour, sugar and oil have increased, further reducing families’ purchasing power. Fuel and public transport prices have also risen by some 50%, preventing many from accessing their workplaces. Internal violence is escalating.

The new decision targets more than one and a half million people, focusing particularly on those most in need. €30 million will be used to ease the effect of income losses through the provision of food aid and family support. The remaining €20 million is for water, sanitation, health and protection activities.

The projects will be implemented by specialized UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and the Red Cross/Crescent all of which have long experience of working in the affected area.

The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) is continuing to monitor the situation on the ground, working closely with its partners.