The decades-long situation in Palestine* has led to a deteriorating humanitarian crisis. Palestinians in the West Bank live in an increasingly coercive environment. As Israeli settlement activity increases, Palestinians are prevented from developing adequate housing and lack access to basic services. In the Gaza Strip, recurrent clashes, an ongoing blockade and internal divides compounded by the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in a desperate situation for the population. As a long-standing humanitarian donor, the EU responds to the most pressing needs of the population.
What are the needs?
More than 1.5 million Palestinians, out of 5.2 million, need humanitarian assistance. In Gaza, the blockade, 3 wars in the last 12 years and internal divides have crippled the local economy. Over 80% of the population is now aid-dependent. People's movements in and out of the Strip are heavily restricted. Gazans are trapped in a cycle of poverty, unemployment and food insecurity. They have limited access to basic services such as safe water, electricity and medical care, and few educational or economic opportunities. The coronavirus lockdown has further worsened people's living conditions and eroded their purchasing power.
In the West Bank, 900,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem, H2 and Area C (an area controlled by Israel that extends to over 60% of the West Bank) have limited access to water, healthcare, education and other critical services. Because of violence, intimidation and the non-granting of building permits, the population is increasingly subjected to forced evictions and seeing their homes and infrastructure demolished. These demolitions have intensified despite the pandemic. As a result, Palestinians are separated from their land and families as well as from schools, hospitals, workplaces, and places of worship. Palestinian children's access to education is hampered. Schools continue to be demolished, and students are routinely harassed on their way to and from school.
How are we helping?
In 2020, the European Union is providing €23.7 million in humanitarian funding for Palestinians in need, including funds to address emerging needs due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
The EU has allocated €5.8 million 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.
More than €15 million has been earmarked to humanitarian programmes in the Gaza Strip. The EU gives financial assistance to vulnerable families, helping them to cover their basic needs. EU humanitarian partners also provide protection, safe education for children and trauma care for the injured while upgrading water and sanitation facilities in health facilities. Funds are also mobilised to disaster preparedness.
In both the West Bank and Gaza strip, around €1.4 million is dedicated to addressing emergency education needs to guarantee that Palestinian children can learn in a safe and conducive environment.
Following the coronavirus pandemic, EU humanitarian partners on the ground were quick to adapt their interventions. They reassigned €2.3 million of their EU grants to the fight against the outbreak by stepping up infection prevention and control measures. The EU is also helping the most vulnerable segments of the population with an additional €2.5 million to cover emergency healthcare, improved access to water and sanitation services, cash transfers and tools for distance learning. Besides, the EU supports the training of healthcare workers and provides testing centres with hygiene materials to allow 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, some of it funded through EU humanitarian aid, has continued in the West Bank despite the pandemic and the approach of winter.
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.