LONDON ø The United Nations has reported a sharp increase in the number
of Palestinians who receive refugee aid.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East,
UNRWA, reported that the number of Palestinian who receive food from the
agency has increased by eight-fold over the last four years. UNRWA
commissioner-general Peter Hansen said the agency supplies food to 1.1
million Palestinians. In 2000, 130,000 Palestinians received such aid.
Hansen told a two-day conference on Palestinian refugees in Geneva last
week that Palestinians were becoming impoverished. He said the proportion of
Palestinians living below the poverty line had tripled from 20 percent to 60
percent over the last four years.
The UN, in its first gathering since 1950, appealed for aid to
Palestinian refugees, particularly in the Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials warned the
envoys of 90 countries that UNRWA's network of schools and clinics was
unraveling because of overcrowded conditions and lack of funds. The
conference, not meant to be donor's parley, garnered $10.3 million in
UNRWA released a report that portrayed a growing refugee population with
declining income. The UN report said the refugee population was increasing
at a rate of 2.3 percent annually and exceeded the four million mark in June
More than 50 percent of the refugees throughout the Middle East were
reported to be up to 18 years old while in the
Gaza Strip more than 50 percent were up to age 15. The UN reported 5.25
million Palestinian refugees in the region.
The report said a major threat to Palestinian stability stemmed from
what it termed "unoccupied youth," marked by high unemployment and
frustrated expectations. The youth population was said to comprise a major
threat to Palestinian stability.
Officials said the steady decline in the economy of the Palestinian
Authority has led to increased aid requests from Palestinians. They also
cited Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement amid the intensification
of the Israeli-Palestinian war.
Ten UN agencies have called on Israeli authorities to ease restrictions
on movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to enable 60,000 Palestinian
students to take their final high school exams, which began on June 7.
The organizations included UNRWA and the UN Childrens Fund and the UN
Development Program. Israel was not invited to the conference.