Refugee Assistance

Israel's military campaign to suppress the al-Aqsa intifada continues to exact a heavy demand on UNRWA services. Heavy damage to refugee shelters and camp infrastructure along with damage to UNRWA installations has required two additional emergency appeals to international donors during the past three months in addition to the Agency's regular budget and emergency appeal for 2002.

 The increasing number of households falling below the poverty line continues to necessitate an everincreasing level of international humanitarian assistance. By the end of March 2002, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics was reporting that 58 percent of Palestinian households across the 1967 occupied territories were receiving humanitarian assistance. More than 80 percent of households, however, reported that they were in need of assistance as compared to 73 percent in July-August 2001

Following the massive military assault on Palestinian refugee camps in March and April 2002, UNRWA was forced to issue a supplementary emergency appeal to the international community to cover emergency expenses not covered in the US $117 emergency appeal for 2002. The total supplementary appeal amounted to US $55.7 million with the majority of the appeal (US $46 million) targeted for the West Bank. More than half of the supplementary appeal (US $37 million) is budgeted to cover emergency shelter repair and reconstruction along with rehabilitation of infrastructure.

Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa intifada through the end of April 2002 UNRWA has appealed for more than US $180 million for emergency programs in the 1967 occupied territories. Approximately US $45 million remained outstanding as of the end of April. The United States/USAID and the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) continue to be largest donors to the Agency's emergency operations. The largest donor is Europe through the combined donations (US $95 million) of the EU and individual member states. The United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, has pledged US $35 million to help rebuild parts of Jenin refugee camp leveled by the Israeli military. The people of Syria also continue to make generous contributions to UNRWA's emergency programs in the 1967 occupied territories. As of June 2002, the Syrian Popular Committee had donated over US $2 million, making the Syrian people the 14th most generous contributors to UNRWA's emergency programs.

At the end of April confirmed pledges to UNRWA's 2002 Emergency Appeal reached US $48 million representing approximately 41 percent of requirements under the Appeal. Of this amount however, only US $14 million had actually been received. US $11 million of pledges to the Third Emergency Appeal (covering emergency activities for the period June -December 2001) also remained outstanding. In early May, UNRWA informed donor states and host countries meeting in Amman, Jordan, that the Agency would require an additional US $70 million to tend to the wounded, supply food, medicine and water to areas affected by Israel's March-April military assault, and replenish Agency stocks of foods and medicines.

UNRWA Comes Under Attack for Doing its Job
Israel has also begun a campaign in the United States and the United Nations to urge a reconsideration of the way UNRWA operates. Over the past three months Israeli officials hav  issued numerous false charges against the Agency, accusing UNRWA and Agency staff of turning a blind eye to the militarization of the camps. Israeli officials have also tried to silence UNRWA Commissioner General, accusing Hansen of making "unhelpful statements."
Pro-Israeli lobbyists in the US, including AIPAC, are also waging a campaign against UNRWA in Congress. Lobby officials, for example, are attempting to link continued US support for UNRWA's budget with demands for changes in Agency operations. According to various press reports the US House of Representatives, International Relations Committee, responsible for approving US foreign aid, is currently trying to organize hearings on UNRWA's activities in the territories and the question of American funding for them. The campaign already resulted in a long letter from Rep. Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the International Relations Committee to Kofi Annan regarding UNRWA's activities in the camps and the Agency's mandate. Both official statements by the Israeli government and material disseminated by the pro-Israel lobby include numerous false statements and outright lies. Contrary to the information provided by Israel and the pro-Israel lobby, UNRWA does not own, run, operate, manage or administer any of the refugee camps and has no legislative or police power within the camps. Host governments remain responsible for the maintenance of law and order and similar governmental functions as part of their normal responsibilities towards the population within their borders. In the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, as the occupying power, had executive authority over the camps from 1967 until 1994 and thus in accordance with the Hague Regulations (1907), Article 43, had responsibility for public order and safety. In 1994, by agreement with Israel pursuant to the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority assumed executive responsibility over camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip which located within Palestinian controlled areas (Area A)..

Employment Assistance
The total number of individuals in the Gaza Strip to have received work under UNRWA's emergency temporary employment program since its inception in January 2001 until the end of April 2002 reached 16,748 of whom 3,172 were women. A total of 140,639 persons, wage earners and their dependants, are estimated to have benefited. Due to the ongoing closure and curfews, however, Agency employment programs are unable to stem the increasing number of families living below the poverty line due to loss of income as well as loss of savings and damage to material assets. 

Food Assistance
By the end of April 118,247 of the total 126,955 families eligible for assistance had received their parcels. UNRWA also continues to provide emergency food assistance to families under closure in the Mawasi area of Rafah and Khan Younis, families in the restricted area of Dugit in the northern Gaza Strip, as well as other families whose homes have been demolished. Since the start of emergency food distribution operations a total of 1,112,444 food parcels has been distributed in the Gaza Strip. As of the end of March, UNRWA had distributed 262,943 rations to families in the West Bank since the beginning of the program in January 2001.

Cash Assistance
Since the beginning of the emergency, a total of US $3,238,451 has been disbursed among 9,762 families in the Gaza Strip, at an average of US $332 per family. The breakdown is provided in the accompanying chart. A total of 321 non-refugee families in the Gaza Strip have benefited from cash assistance totaling US $149,900. In the West Bank, during March UNRWA approved payments totaling US $138,882 to 528 families in 10 refugee camps, to help them cover the cost of replacing household effects destroyed in the offensive in the refugee camps. Theoverwhelming majority of these families reside in  the Balata (194) and Jenin (170) refugee camps. UNRWA also approved US $48,968 in payments to another 880 families to supplement their incomes.

Shelter Assistance
In the Gaza Strip, by the end of April a total of 485 shelters had been destroyed or damaged beyond repair as a result of Israeli military incursions since the start of the intifada. Ongoing UNRWA assessment of the economic and social conditions of the affected refugees has shown that 469 families have no alternative housing to which they can move. Construction of housing for these families is contingent upon the availability of funds, and on the availability of land that it will be necessary for the Palestinian Authority to locate for this purpose.

Security conditions continue to preclude the reconstruction of these shelters at their original locations. By the end of March 2002, UNRWA had extended US $618,500 in grants to 2,474 families in the West Bank to enable them to meet the cost of repairs to their dwellings. Damages to another 155 shelters had yet to be surveyed when Israel's second military assault began on 29 March. Since the beginning of the intifada, the Agency has distributed 378 tents, 79,241 blankets, 9,653 mattresses, 723 mats and 394 kitchen sets in emergency assistance to families in the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, during March UNRWA distributed blankets to 212 families, tents to 19 and kitchen kits to 172. In Jenin UNRWA distributed some 2,460 blankets, 120 tents and 100 kitchen sets to displaced refugees during April.

Health Assistance
During Israel's massive military assault in March and April 2002, there were serious disruptions to UNRWA's health services as a result of closures, curfews and violence. In March the health center in the Far'a camp was the only one in the vicinity of Nablus that functioned. The health centres in Bethlehem and the Am'ari and Dheisheh camps did not open, and those in the Kalandia and Jalazone camps functioned without critical staff. In the Aida and 'Azza (Beit Jibrin) refugee camps in the Bethlehem area where the Agency has no health facilities, UNRWA retained physicians with homes in the camps and provided them with the medical supplies they needed to treat the sick and injured.

During April, however, the Agency managed to provide emergency health care at its health centers in the Dheishe, Balata, Askar and No.1 refugee camps 24 hours a day. The Agency established emergency health clinics in Jericho, Douha, Jenin, and new Askar and Aida refugee camps in co-operation with non-governmental organizations or individual physicians. Services were provided to anyone in need, whether refugees or nonrefugees. In the Gaza Strip, UNRWA mental health teams continue to provide emergency care to trauma victims and provide training sessions and briefings to the refugee community.

Education Assistance
UNRWA's education system came to a near standstill in March and April due to Israel's military assault and extended curfews imposed on the civilian population. In the West Bank, for example, 51,744 of 58,509 pupils missed between one and ten days of classes during March. A total of 7,399 teaching days were lost in the month. On average, 352 teachers were absent each day, at a cost of US $199,773 to the Agency. Teaching days lost during the month were 132 per cent of the total number of days lost in the West Bank during the entire 2000/ 2001 academic year.

Humanitarian Access
During the past three months, UNRWA has faced even tighter restrictions on the movement of humanitarian goods and supplies, provision of emergency medical services, and delivery of basic services to refugees. From the time Israel's massive military assault began in late March, for example, over 60 percent of UNRWA staff members residing in the West Bank but assigned to positions in the Agency's Field Office in Jerusalem were unable to report to work. As a result of internal closures effectively dividing the Gaza Strip into three sectors, approximately 750 staff members, 10 per cent of the UNRWA's workforce in the Gaza Strip, have been unable to reach their duty stations or have had to work reduced hours.

Violence and closures have also prevented UNRWA from delivering emergency food and medical assistance to refugees. During April, for example, and despite unrelenting requests to gain humanitarian access to Jenin refugee camp, UNRWA, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) were all denied entry from the day Israeli forces entered the camp on 3 April. There was virtually no means of communication with residents of the camp for more than 10 days. On 15 April, 12 days after the assault had begun and four days after the fighting had ended, ICRC and PRCS personnel and an UNRWA ambulance were finally allowed entry into the camp. It was not until the following day, however, before UNRWA was allowed unfettered access.