Humanitarian Conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have Fallen to Levels "unprecedented in 35 years"

AP World Politics, June 21, 2002

GENEVA - The U.N. agency caring for Palestinian refugees appealed for dlrs 55.7 million in emergency funds Friday, in addition to dlrs 117 million it requested earlier this year.

Most of the money is needed to reconstruct destroyed buildings and repair the shattered infrastructure, as well as food aid and education.

"As we get further into the crisis, the coping abilities of the Palestinians have been eroded to non-existant," said Rene Aquarone, spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.

The agency provides health care, education and other relief assistance to some 3.8 million refugees and their descendants displaced in the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars.

The appeal said that humanitarian conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had fallen to levels "unprecedented in 35 years."

UNRWA has received less than half of its original dlrs 117 million appeal for 2002.

Given the extent of the destruction caused by Israeli offensives, Aquarone said the agency had no choice but to ask for extra money, even though any repairs and reconstruction risked being destroyed by further military action.

"We have to help the refugees," he said. "That is our mandate."

Other U.N. agencies are also expected to ask for an additional dlrs 40 million in funding to help Palestinians.