Boycott of Hamas prompts urgent call for child support

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The Independent Online

The UN has taken the unprecedented step of calling for an 80 percent increase in emergency aid for Palestinians to cope with the impact of the international and Israeli boycott of their Hamas-led government.

The upward revision to $385m in required funding for emergency programmes in Gaza and the West Bank - especially to help children - follows an " extremely bleak" humanitarian outlook which the UN says is " predicted to worsen dramatically in the coming months." Its new report says that 70 percent of Palestinians will be without paid work by the end of the year.

The rise in unemployment stems from the ban on paying salaries to the Palestinian Authority's 152,000 employees - which normally support another million people - and the continued contraction of the economy because of intensified closures and the loss of work in Israel.

Filippo Grandi, deputy director of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said that 100,000 people in Gaza alone were now on a waiting list for places on the agency's short term job creation schemes. The programme currently provides refugees only with 15-20,000 three or six month job placements across Gaza and the West Bank and the agency is seeking to increase the number of places to a total of around 33,000.

The report also says that beside a continuing death toll because of " Israeli-Palestinian" violence, inter Palestinian conflict - which has already claimed ten lives this month, has been compounded by the non payment of salaries to security personnel. It warns: "A rise in criminality and lawlessness will further undermine private investment and could jepoardise aid deliveries."

Repeated closures of the Karni crossing - which the report says has been open, and then well below capacity - for only 56 percent of the year have also devastated the economy. David Shearer, the director of the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the internationally funded rehabilitation of Gaza nurseries left by departing Jewish settlers last August had failed because "only a fraction" of the produce was able to leave Gaza for export markets.

Mr Shearer also said that Karni was also hampering import of essential vaccines into Gaza and that once across the crossing there was a lack of petrol to distribute them. He warned that some PA health workers could not get to work because they could not afford fares.

Alvaro de Soto, the UN's peace envoy, said the details of the emergency funding mechanism agreed in principle by the international community in New York last month had not yet been worked out but added: "The target is to get it working by early July." Mr De Soto suggested that any mechanism would need the "flexibility" to pay several groups of key workers - including some security personnel.