OCCUPIED JERUSALEM - Palestinian refugees are facing an acute
crisis marked by high rates of unemployment, poverty and malnutrition,
head of a major United Nations relief agency in the area said today.
"There can be no question that we are indeed living through a downward
spiral," said Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and
Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). "Few places
ever undergone as steep and rapid a decline in income and living
and as rapid an increase in mass deprivation as the Palestinian
has been experiencing for the past two years."
Unemployment has jumped to up to 80 per cent in certain parts of the
occupied territories, while the level of absolute poverty had risen
"disastrously," he said, with some 70 per cent of the population now
on less than $2 per person per day.
Levels of acute malnutrition have reached 25 per cent, hitting women
children the hardest.
Israeli restrictions were blocking access to employment by workers,
by children, and clinics by doctors and patients. The vaccination rate
dropped to 85 per cent. "If it falls below that, we are running real
of epidemics as diseases spread," warned Hansen.
Curfews and blockages of villages, towns and camps continue to affect
several hundred thousand people, and some areas, such as Nablus, were
virtually continuous curfew.
Such conditions "completely strangulate the local economy and hence
this downward spiral to accelerate," said the Commissioner-General.
mechanisms were being exhausted. "It's a very bleak picture indeed."
In response, UNRWA was delivering emergency relief to the affected
population, but this year, the Agency had received only $90 million of
$172 million it sought from donors. He noted with appreciation that
United Arab Emirates had contributed $27 million to rebuild the
in Jenin, but added that a lack of adequate funding overall had
"I continue to appeal to the international community not to let the
be forgotten," he said, adding that discussions were ongoing with the
Israeli authorities to enable UNRWA to have improved access to those