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West Bank and Gaza

Volume 451: debated on Monday 30 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what measures are being taken to alleviate the humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza in the interim period while aid to the Palestinian Authority is withheld. (97036)

The UK Government are extremely concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This is caused by the conflict with Israel; an economic downturn due to restrictions on movement and access and the Palestinian Authority’s fiscal crisis, which has meant it has been unable to pay salaries. The fiscal crisis is mainly the result of the withholding of clearance revenues by Israel and a downturn in domestically generated revenues. The suspension of budgetary support by donors has played a less significant role.

The suspension of budgetary support has been necessary following the Hamas-led Government’s failure to renounce violence, recognise Israel and sign up to previous peace agreements. However, the international community is doing what it can to address the humanitarian situation. The European Community has increased its aid from €250 million to €340 million this year. UK bilateral aid levels have remained constant at £30 million this financial year.

A Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) has been set up to support Palestinians directly instead of going through the Palestinian Authority. DFID intends to contribute up to £12 million to the TIM and the European Community is contributing €105 million. So far the TIM has delivered 2.6 million litres of fuel to keep water, sanitation and health care facilities running; allowances for over 63,000 Palestinian Government workers; and welfare payments to over 40,000 of the poorest Palestinians.

DFID has provided £15 million this financial year to support Palestinian refugees, through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA). DFID also gives core funding to other UN agencies which are helping to address the humanitarian situation including the World Food Programme and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Furthermore, we have deployed two experts to OCHA to improve its ability to monitor the humanitarian situation in Gaza. These experts will help to make sure that aid gets to those who need it the most.