Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gaza Relief Efforts and Donations

Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, timed perfectly to coincide with the inauguration of President Obama, has now shifted the emphasis of solidarity from calls for an Israeli ceasefire to support for Palestinian relief and reconstruction in Gaza. UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes estimated "the humanitarian relief needs in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and the overall bill including reconstruction as likely to be in the billions." (Read the story on UN relief efforts at the UN News Center.)

For Gaza, hundreds of millions of dollars is a very large sum of money. Just to put the cost of relief work in perspective, the largest single-country donor to Palestinians in the period from 1993 to 2008 has been the United States through the USAID program. Over that 15 year period, USAID gave to the Palestinian Authority for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip close to 2.3 billion dollars, significantly less than US military grants to Israel in one year ($3 billion/year, see previous MPAO post on January 21, 2008). It is worth noting that during the four year period from 2004 to 2007, USAID gave the Government of Israel (GOI) close to $1.25 billion dollars for economic development.

The US needs to increase substantially its humanitarian and development aid to Palestinians in general and especially for the reconstruction of Gaza. The Obama Administration can channel aid through the UN and through NGOs working in Gaza.

In the meantime, individuals can make contributions for Gaza relief efforts through several very credible organizations:
1) United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
2) Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA)
3) Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF)
4) American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA)
5) SOS Palestine

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