EU hands $13m in financial aid to Palestine’s poorest

The European Union (EU) has donated almost €10m ($13m) in financial aid to more than 57,000 poor and vulnerable Palestinian families.

The donation, which is the second this year by the 28-nation bloc, provides cash and in-kind assistance to Palestinians living in extreme poverty in the West Bank and Gaza.

A total of €9.95m is to be disbursed to households through the Palestinian Authority’s social allowances scheme. Palestine’s Ministry of Social Affairs began making the payments through local banks on June 29.

Eligible beneficiaries for the EU contribution are identified in cooperation with the PA Ministry of Finance, and more than half of the 57,249 families that will benefit from the payments are resident in Gaza. Families in Gaza will be able to collect their allowances over-the-counter until August 1, while beneficiaries in the West Bank will be able to collect their allowances directly from their own bank accounts.

The new contribution is the second tranche of an overall EU commitment of €40m for 2013. In March, a €9.6m contribution including funds from the EU budget (€7.85m) and the governments of Austria (€1.25m) and Ireland (€500,000) reached 57,725 Palestinian families in need.

In September last year, the United Nations agency UNCTAD warned that Israeli policies and settlement expansions were driving the people of Palestine deeper into poverty. In a report on the future of the Palestinian economy UNCTAD classified one in every two Palestinians as “poor”, and said that the situation had worsened after a sharp drop in foreign aid in 2011.

"[Israeli] restrictions on movement, faltering aid flows, a paralysed private sector and a chronic fiscal crisis cloud the horizons," the report said, before going on to describe the impact of the 1968 Israeli occupation on Palestine’s economy as “devastating”.

"The economy has lost access to 40 per cent of West Bank land, 82 percent of its ground water, and more than two thirds of its grazing land," UNCTAD said, adding that Israel’s land-and-sea blockade meant that less than 15 per cent of Palestine’s fishery resources were accessible to its people.