EU reaffirms its leading role as humanitarian aid donor in the West Bank

European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, announced further 58 M€ in humanitarian aid for vulnerable Palestinian populations as he visited the Middle East region on a two-day humanitarian mission aimed at seeing for himself the destruction in Gaza following the conflict and to witness just how difficult the living conditions are there for the 1.5 million Palestinian population.

The European Commission is launching the 2009 Global Plan allocating 58 M€ to assist the Palestinian populations. From this commitment around 32 M€ will be earmarked to respond to the dramatic humanitarian situation in Gaza, 20 M€ will be for assistance to the West Bank, and the remaining 6 M€ is destined for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

The new Global plan will enable a response to the desperate humanitarian situation of the Palestinian population. The funding will be used to deliver food assistance, water and sanitation services, shelter rehabilitation, cash-for-work, health and psycho-social support throughout.

Although a full assessment of the humanitarian consequences and the damage caused by the military operation are still to be fully assessed, relief needs are expected to be huge. Activities implemented in the Gaza Strip will be part of an early recovery plan which will follow a joint needs assessment being coordinated with multilateral and international donors.

As Louis Michel toured Gaza's rubble strewn streets amid the bombed out shells of buildings he stated, "Destruction on such a massive scale saddens me deeply. Seeing the catastrophic situation in Gaza with my own eyes makes my call for increased humanitarian action all the more urgent. The civilian population in Gaza has faced terrible and unprecedented suffering over the past weeks and humanitarian aid is now even more vital to their survival than before. This funding package of 58 M€ will contribute substantially to the international effort on behalf of these suffering people and will also sustain our ongoing solidarity with the entire Palestinian population".

Earlier this month, immediately after the start of the military campaign, the European Parliament called for the immediate cease of violence between Israel and Palestine, and Commission adopted an emergency decision for Gaza to provide 3 M€ in urgent humanitarian relief.

EU Aid and the Humanitarian crisis in the West Bank

Furthermore, the humanitarian crisis in the West Bank continues within a context of increasing fragmentation and isolation. The growing dependency on international aid and the unremitting deterioration of the socio-economic situation of the Palestinian population contribute substantially to the complexity of this protracted crisis. The humanitarian situation of more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon also continues to be of concern.

All EU funds will be channelled through the Commission's Humanitarian aid department (ECHO) under the responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel, counting upon the support and cooperation of of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Gaza, as well as major international agencies such as the Agency for Refugees of the United Nations (UNHCR) and the Red Cross-Red Crescent, to channel this aid to specific projects to support the civilian population.

Aware of the harshness of this situation, the EU has intensified its efforts in recent years to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable victims of conflict in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Thus, since the beginning of the so-called "second intifada", Europe has committed over 415 M€ for humanitarian aid in the area. In 2008, more than 73 M€ were used to cover needs of first order in Gaza, West Bank refugee camps of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.