UN appeals for $95m for urgent Palestinian aid

Al-Jazeera  /  May 27, 2021

United Nations says appeal will mostly address ‘very immediate needs’ in Gaza such as food, health and medical supplies after 11 days of fighting.

The United Nations has appealed for $95m to help Palestinians over the next three months in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, after 11 days of the worst fighting between Israel and Palestinians in years.

Lynn Hastings, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said the UN was currently looking at immediate aid needs and would then assess the longer term damage and how much might be needed for reconstruction.

She said the appeal launched on Thursday was to address “very immediate needs,” such as food, health, medicine, medical supplies, quick repairs to infrastructure and cash assistance. On top of the appeal, the UN has also already released $22.5m from other funds to help meet needs.

Palestinian officials put reconstruction costs at tens of millions of dollars in Gaza, where health authorities said at least 254 people were killed during the 11 days of fighting.

Medics said rocket fire and guided missile attacks from Palestinian groups such as Hamas killed 13 people in Israel. A truce was reached on Friday.

Hastings said the conflict left 800,000 people in Gaza without regular access to piped water. Untreated sewage water was being discharged into the sea and 58 education facilities were damaged, including 285 buildings with more than 1,000 housing and commercial units destroyed.

Six hospitals and 11 healthcare centres were also damaged, and electricity was down to four to six hours a day.

Hastings said the majority of the money will go to Gaza but some will go to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, mainly to help injured people, possibly with cash assistance, psycho-social help or protection issues.

“We need the immediate life-saving needs moving on to reconstruction and recovery, and ideally with a political horizon in place. That, of course, is the most important thing to stop the continuation of these hostilities,” Hastings stressed.

“All of us need to ensure that we are not repeating the mistakes that keep bringing us back to having to rebuild Gaza,” she said.

Separately, Qatar has said it will provide $500m to help rebuild Gaza, while the United States pledged an additional $75m in development and economic aid to the Palestinians in 2021, $5.5m in immediate disaster relief for Gaza, and $32m to the UN Palestinian aid agency based there.

Qatar often serves as a mediator between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group which has ruled Gaza since 2007. The Gulf state has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian and development aid to support previous ceasefires.

Israel has blockaded the coastal enclave since 2007 after Hamas came into power in Gaza. The UN has repeatedly called for an immediate end to the blockade.

“Maintaining predictable access for goods and staff to enter and exit Gaza is going to be critical to ensure a way forward in Gaza,” Hastings told reporters on Thursday.

Meanwhile, UN chief Antonio Guterres said his organization was “working hard” to keep the ceasefire in place to make sure that the ceasefire holds and that there were no further escalations.

“In recent weeks, the world watched as civilians endured yet another cycle of devastating violence and destruction,” Guterres said in a statement published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) website.

“Children and adults were killed, thousands were injured. Families have had their lives torn apart. It is our duty now to scale up support to those who need it the most. We must not fail them.”