Many of the projects funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) cover both the west bank and Gaza and so it is not possible to give figures for Gaza alone. Detailed figures of DFID expenditure are included in the Annual Report and Statistics on International Development which are available in the Library and on the DFID website. In recent years direct DFID funding to the Occupied Palestinian Territories has increased from £17.6 million in 2004-05 to £60 million in 2008-09 (including our support to the UN Relief and Works Agency).
Since the start of the Gaza conflict the UK Government have pledged nearly £47 million to help the people of Gaza, of which £20 million has been provided so far this year for humanitarian aid and early recovery. In 2007-08 DFID also provided £3 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to meet immediate humanitarian needs in Gaza.
Achieving improved access to Gaza is a priority for the UK Government and the wider international community. We raise the issue of access with the Government of Israel at all available opportunities. On 1 December the Secretary of State spoke with Ehud Barak, the Israeli Minister of Defense on improving access. Last month I met with Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shalom, and with Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon. Earlier in the year both my right hon Friend and I met with the former Minister of Welfare and Social Services, Isaac Herzog, and the Secretary of State also wrote to Ehud Barak.
The collective lobbying of the international community has had some impact. Access for food products has improved since the end of the conflict in January, and in October small quantities of cement, plastic pipes and desalination equipment were allowed in for water and sanitation projects for the first time. Despite this, we remain very concerned about the situation in Gaza and will continue to press the Israeli Government for improved access for humanitarian aid and reconstruction materials.
United Kingdom and European Union aid projects in Gaza have been subject to the same access restrictions as other humanitarian projects operating there. Items that have been rejected or delayed since January include foodstuffs, construction materials, agricultural materials and hygiene kits. Although there has been no specific assessment of the cost to Gaza of access restrictions, they continue to impact on the humanitarian response.
Without full, safe and unhindered access for aid, aid workers and reconstruction materials a comprehensive response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza remains impossible.
The UK Government and others in the international community have considered alternative delivery channels for humanitarian supplies, including delivery by sea. However, we have concluded that such alternatives are neither practical nor sustainable.
The UK considers the immediate and unconditional lifting of all restrictions on Gaza's land and maritime borders as the only viable solution and will continue to lobby the Government of Israel on this issue.