Donor fatigue

IN A major disappointment to Palestinian refugees, the recent conference of donors in Geneva ended without any major boost in much-needed aid for their basic needs and infrastructure.

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Published: Sat 19 Jun 2004, 11:02 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:30 AM

Only $10 million was raised as compared to the $196 million requested by the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) last year for its emergency fund. A pittance considering the fact that in year 2000 Unrwa fed 130,000 refugees but now 1.1 million require its aid. In the words of Unrwa chief Peter Hansen, "this is just a continuing band-aid on the wound." Donations of the United States to the agency comprise the largest contribution whereas those of the European countries and other donors have been declining in recent years. Unrwa has seen a drop in funding from $200 a year for each refugee in the past to a meagre $70 now. An apparent reason behind the drop in contributions is the frustration of some donor countries who see their aid projects being destroyed by the conflict. Delegates to the conference admitted that when it comes to Palestinian refugees, there is `donor fatigue'.

Unrwa has repeatedly protested about the destruction of Palestinian homes as well as agency-funded infrastructure by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and over being cut off from refugees. But there is no stopping Israel, which over the past four years has destroyed the web of transactions that the Palestinian economy depends on. A recent ILO mission to the West Bank and Gaza found that disruptions to transport and labour were a bar to investment and production.

As a result of Israel's often disproportionate measures, such as closure of its border to shut off Palestinians, implemented in the name of security, one third of Palestinian workers are unemployed and almost two thirds live below the poverty line. The delays in economic activity, increased costs and loss of earnings that result from road closures, prolonged security checks and curfews all add up to reduce Palestinian family incomes and set off a vicious circle of poverty, eventually giving rise to more militancy.

With a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict not in sight, the plight of the refugees is a reality the international community cannot wish away. The US leadership, which has asked other countries to offer more help to the Palestinians, should bring to bear on Israel to mend its ways and not just issue statements of concern at the assassinations and demolitions conducted with astounding regularity. In other words, the US should take a firm stand on the issue and stop running with the hare and hunting with the hound.

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