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Palestinian Civilians Desperate for Food

18 April 2002

"World attention has been riveted on events in the Holy Land and there is great sympathy for people who are suffering on both sides to the conflict," says Gillian Southey of Christian World Service

"However, while Israel remains open and civilians' daily needs are generally being met," she says, "inside the barricaded West Bank towns there exists a humanitarian crisis of huge proportions, affecting innocent men, women and children."

This is why Christian World Service has launched an appeal to assist relief efforts which are already underway in the area.

ACT International (Action by Churches Together), to which Christian World Service belongs, reports that member agencies based in Jerusalem succeeded in taking three vehicles with food and water to Ramallah last Saturday, by negotiating their way through Israeli red tape and checkpoints. On Sunday and Monday another convoy took some supplies to Beit Jalla, Bethlehem and Beit Sahur and further moves to Tulkarem and Ramallah are planned for later this week.

Earlier, two loads of medical supplies, food, blankets mattresses and tents were taken to Jenin city, but the Israeli authorities would not allow them into the refugee camp there.

"The task is fraught with danger and difficulties," Ms Southey says, "but the needs of the people are desperate, which is why Christian World Service is appealing for more support for this humanitarian effort."

Christian World Service partners the Middle East Council of Churches report that poverty and misery in the West Bank have reached unimaginable proportions as the Israeli re-occupation continues. Already by the end of 2001, after eighteen months of lesser restrictions, the damage inflicted on the public infrastructure and private property was estimated by the World Bank at $740 million.

Due to long closures and isolation, the poverty rate among Palestinians has reached 64%, while unemployment has topped 53% of the labour force, with 1.5 million Palestinians living below the poverty line.

Since March 29 this year, nearly all Palestinians in the occupied West Bank towns have been totally deprived of income, business has ground to a halt, and public services such as educational institutions and health care providers have been severely restricted and their property damaged. Many homes have also been damaged, looted or totally destroyed. There has been major damage to roads, water, sewage, power and communications systems and public buildings.

These are some of the problems being faced by Palestinian people, but most acutely they are in need of food, water and medical supplies.

Donations to the appeal may be sent to Christian World Service, PO Box 22 652, Christchurch. Credit card donations to Ph: 0800 74 73 72

Christian World Service Media Release
Further information from Gillian Southey (03) 366 9274

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