The 52 year-long crisis in Palestine* has led to a deteriorating humanitarian situation, with communities in the West Bank suffering from a host of problems. The increasingly coercive environment created by Israeli settlement activity coupled with a restrictive and discriminatory planning regime make it virtually impossible for Palestinians to develop adequate housing and access essential services. In Gaza, recurrent clashes, the land, air and sea blockade, 3 wars in the last 12 years, and internal divides have resulted in a continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation, with damaged infrastructure, unemployment, access restrictions, and a collapse of healthcare and key services.
More than 1.5 million Palestinians, out of 5.2 million, need humanitarian assistance. In Gaza, the blockade and recurrent hostilities have weakened the local economy to the point where 1.5 million people (around 80% of Gaza’s total population) aid-dependent, with no prospects for human and economic development. Gazans face limited access to basic services including water, electricity, medical care, as well as educational and economic opportunities. Since 30 March 2018, more than 300 Palestinians have been killed and over 35,000 injured (8,300 of which were children) in protests near the perimeter fence between Gaza and Israel. The entire situation is exacerbated by the rivalry between the 2 main Palestinian political parties.
In the West Bank, 900,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem, H2 and Area C – an area that represents over 60% of the West Bank where Israel retains control over security, planning and building– have limited access to water, food, healthcare, education, and other basic services. The population is increasingly subjected to forced evictions and demolitions of houses triggered by building restrictions, the lack of building permits, and violence. As a result, Palestinians are separated from their land, families, schools, hospitals, workplaces, and places of worship. Palestinian children’s access to education is greatly restricted due to Israeli demolitions of schools, and the routine harassment of Palestinian students by some settlers while commuting to and from school.
In 2020, the European Union is providing €23.1 million in humanitarian funding for Palestinians in need, including funds to address emerging needs due to the outbreak of coronavirus. €5.5 million has been allocated to an emergency and protection response for families affected by demolitions and evictions in the West Bank, more specifically in Area C, East Jerusalem and Hebron. Partners provide them with emergency assistance, legal aid and access to essential services.
As part of the 2020 funding, more than €15 million has been allocated to humanitarian programmes in Gaza. With these funds, the EU provides financial assistance to vulnerable families, to cover their basic needs, and provides, through partners, safe education for children, trauma care to the injured, water and sanitation emergency support in main health facilities, as well as disaster preparedness and protection. In total, €1.4 million is dedicated to address emergency education needs, in order to give children most in need access to safe quality schooling, in both the West Bank and Gaza strip.
Following the coronavirus pandemic, EU humanitarian partners on the ground were quick to adapt their interventions by putting in place measures to keep the people in need safe. EU funding has enabled them to step up infection prevention and control measures. It is also helping the most vulnerable segments of the population through emergency healthcare, access to water and sanitation services, cash transfers and tools for distance learning. In addition, the EU is supporting training for health workers, screening tents for healthcare facilities and hygiene materials for testing centres allowing students to take their exams.
The coronavirus has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, areas already affected by movement restrictions before the outbreak. The demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure has continued since the start of the pandemic in the occupied West Bank, undermining the capacities of already vulnerable communities to fight the infection.
To alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable Palestinians, EU humanitarian aid supports numerous implementing partners in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), both United Nations agencies and non-governmental organisations. Since 2000, the European Union has provided more than €793 million in humanitarian assistance to help meet the basic needs of the Palestinian population.
* The designation of Palestine shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue.