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UN, Palestinians launch aid appeal after funding cuts

RAMALLAH: The United Nations and the Palestinian Authority appealed for $350 million in aid for Palestinians next year, saying much more was needed but they had to be realistic after a year of funding cuts.

The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan focused on Palestinians most in need of food, healthcare, shelter, water and sanitation, said Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Donations were down in many areas around the world, he said. But local aid work took a particularly hard hit this year when the United States ended funding for the UN agency that helps five million Palestinian refugees.

“Humanitarian actors are faced with record-low funding levels of this year, at the same time we face massive and increasing needs,” McGoldrick said in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “We will be able to assist fewer people this year; 1.4 million people are being targeted as opposed to 1.9 million last year.”

More than three quarters of the funds sought would go to Gaza, the appeal organisers said, because the densely populated coastal strip faced a “dire humanitarian situation” after years of an Israeli-led blockade, Palestinian political divisions and casualties from demonstrations and hostilities.

Washington promised $365 million to UNRWA — the UN agency that looks after Palestinian refugees — in 2018, but paid only a first installment of $60 million before announcing in August that it would halt all future donations. The move was widely seen as a means of pressuring the Palestinian leadership to enter peace negotiations with Israel.

Palestinian Social Development Minister Ibrahim Al-Shaer said on Monday they would not give in to pressure. “The position of the Palestinian people, its leadership and its government is that we will not drop our legitimate rights for aid and money,” he said.