- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2003

GENEVA — Top United Nations officials have called for rich donor countries to come forward and provide $102.9 million in emergency funds, over the next six months, to assist more than 1.5 million Palestinians who have fallen into abject poverty blamed on the tough Israeli security measures in the occupied territories.

Although the appeal was made on June 6, to date only $3 million has been pledged, senior U.N. officials said.

“The international community must continue and increase its support to the Palestinians to halt a downward spiral of social and economic despair and help them begin to climb a ladder towards restoration and development,” U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message to a U.N.-sponsored forum on assistance for the Palestinian people.

To date, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which began the appeal to meet extra needs on top of its regular budget, has only received pledges from Switzerland, Italy and Ireland, said Peter Hansen, the agency’s Danish commissioner-general.

In an interview on the sidelines of the forum here last week, Mr. Hansen said the agency appealed for $93 million for the first six months of the year and received about 35 to 40 percent of that amount pledged. But for the past six months, “we have not received a penny,” he said.

Mr. Hansen was hopeful that donor support would improve in the near future. But for now, the agency will have to do some contingency planning and carry out only the “absolutely minimum services of emergency nature,” he added.

In his message, Mr. Annan stressed the humanitarian emergency in the occupied Palestinian territory “has been exacerbated by the tightening of the stifling regime of closures and curfews, as well as continued settlement activity and the construction of a separation wall.”

He suggested that with the implementation of the U.S.-brokered “road map” peace initiative under way, “Israel should ease its security measures so as to minimize the suffering of the Palestinians.”

Citing a 2002 study by Johns Hopkins University and the humanitarian group CARE International, the U.N. agency said 13.3 percent of children under age 5 in Gaza Strip and 4.3 percent on the West Bank suffered from severe malnutrition.

David Bassiouni, UNICEF special representative to the Palestinian territories, said 38 percent of Palestinian children under age 5 are anemic and 1 million Palestinian children now live below the poverty line.

Mr. Hansen, whose agency looks after 1.55 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and more than 4 million more in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, said “there has been a drastic fall in living standards” among the Palestinians since the latest intifada (uprising) began in September 2000.

Before the intifada, robust growth in the aftermath of the 1993 Oslo accords saw per capita Palestinian income reach $1,600 on the West Bank and $1,200 in Gaza, Mr. Hansen noted.

He also acknowledged that the “Israelis have very severe security problems” because of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation.

The Israelis are entitled to use their security forces to protect their population, Mr. Hansen said.

He added: “What we have at issue with the Israelis is whether they have gone beyond what is necessary, what are the limits that international law puts on such actions.”

Yaakov Levy, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said yesterday, “Israelis and Palestinians are in constant dialogue about the need to fight terrorism, which when successful, will bring about the easing of security measures which were put in place to prevent acts of terrorism which caused the death of over 800 Israelis.”

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