President Barack Obama has authorized the use of $20.3 million from the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) Fund to address critical post-conflict humanitarian needs in Gaza. U.S. Government support for humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees and conflict victims now totals nearly $120 million in FY 2009, including nearly $60 million in Gaza.
Of the $20.3 million in new ERMA funds, $13.5 million will go to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), $6 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and $800,000 to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). These organizations are distributing emergency food assistance, providing medical assistance and temporary shelter, creating temporary employment, and restoring access to electricity and potable water to the people of Gaza.
Today’s contribution to UNRWA augments the $85 million the United States contributed in December 2008 toward UNRWA’s 2009 appeals. Of that amount, $25 million supported UNRWA emergency operations in West Bank and Gaza. The remaining $60 million supported UNRWA’s services for 4.6 million Palestinian refugees in the region, including Gaza. UNRWA is the largest provider of humanitarian aid in Gaza, providing 70 percent of the population with emergency food assistance, essential healthcare, and primary education. We are working to develop a longer-term reconstruction/development effort with international partners.
Furthermore, today’s contribution to ICRC complements the $9.7 million the United States provided earlier this month for ICRC’s activities for victims of conflict in the Middle East, with particular attention to its critical programs in Gaza. U.S. support of the ICRC buttresses the organization’s efforts to supply Gaza’s hospitals and clinics with urgently needed medical equipment, as well as to rehabilitate damaged water pumps and sanitation systems.
Finally, the U.S. contribution to OCHA supports its essential coordination activities for the Humanitarian Country Team, comprised of UN Agencies and non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian assistance in Gaza.
In addition to our contributions to UNRWA, ICRC, and OCHO, to date, USAID has provided more than $3.7 million for emergency assistance to Gaza. Food, milk powder, blankets, plastic sheeting, and other nonfood items have been distributed to beneficiaries, and the distributions are continuing. This assistance is distributed to beneficiaries through USAID’s implementing partners under six recently awarded grants ($250,000 each) to Mercy Corps, American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), CHF International, Relief International, Catholic Relief Services, and CARE International. Food distributions are done through USAID’s grant to the World Food Program (WFP).
The U.S. reiterates its support for humanitarian actors responding to emergency needs in Gaza and encourages other states to provide urgently needed funding to UNRWA, ICRC, WFP and other international and non-governmental organizations providing this lifesaving care to civilians in Gaza.