The decades-long crisis in Palestine* has led to a deteriorating humanitarian situation. Palestinians live in an increasingly coercive environment compounded by the coronavirus pandemic. In the West Bank, as Israeli settlement activity continues to increase, 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 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?
2.5 million Palestinians, out of 5.2 million, need humanitarian assistance. In Gaza, the blockade, 3 wars in the last 12 years and divisions have crippled the local economy. Due to the violence in May this year, hundreds of Palestinians have died, including children benefitting from an EU-funded programme. Over 100,000 have fled their homes across Gaza.
Over 80% of the population is 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. Continued coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns have further worsened people’s living conditions and eroded their purchasing power.
In the West Bank, 900,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem, H2 sector, 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 basic 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 infrastructures demolished. These demolitions have intensified despite the COVID-19 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 school.
How are we helping?
In 2021, the European Union provided €34 million in humanitarian funding for Palestinians in need, including funds to address emerging needs due to the coronavirus outbreak and help victims of the recent violence.
We support 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.
EU-funded humanitarian programmes in the Gaza Strip provide 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 services in health facilities. Funds are also mobilised for disaster preparedness.
In both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the EU funds help Palestinian children learn in a safe and conducive environment. EU humanitarian funding focuses on the needs arising from school closures and distance education.
Following the coronavirus pandemic, EU humanitarian partners on the ground were quick to adapt their interventions. In 2020, they reassigned €2.3 million of their EU grants to the fight against COVID-19 by stepping up infection prevention and control measures. The EU is also helping the most vulnerable segments of the population to cover emergency healthcare, improved access to water and sanitation services, cash transfers, and tools for distance learning. The EU supports the training of healthcare workers and provides hygiene kits to allow students to return to school safely.
The coronavirus has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, areas already affected by movement restrictions, settler violence, domestic violence, and economic vulnerability before the outbreak. The demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure, including EU-funded buildings, has increased in the West Bank despite the pandemic and winter season.
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 €827 million in humanitarian assistance to help meet the basic needs of the Palestinian population.