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Monday, 10 February, 2003, 07:13 GMT
UN warns of Palestinian aid crisis
Palestinian boy picks through rubble of demolished house
Aid is running out for impoverished Palestinians

The United Nations has warned that its emergency food programme for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is in jeopardy.

Unless donor countries come up with more money, it says, the refugees face further malnutrition and disease.

Shuafat refugee camp near Jerusalem
Many Palestinians live in cramped refugee camps
The UN says it is currently feeding over a million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza.

This year, their appeal for more than $90m dollars appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

They say they have received nothing - and only a fraction of the sum has even been promised.

Peter Hansen, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNWRA), told the BBC that donor countries were waiting to see what funds might be needed in Iraq.

Social schemes at risk

It is not only the emergency food programme which is in jeopardy.

The UN says it is already cutting back its employment generation schemes and projects for re-housing refugees made homeless again by the current conflict are being shelved.

Mr Hanson is predicting that the hardship will not be tolerated indefinitely, warning of what he calls an explosion in the population if the necessary funds are not forthcoming.

A Christian Aid report, published last month, said that three quarters of Palestinians now live on less than two dollars a day.

Official Palestinian figures put the unemployment rate at close to 70%.

Job opportunities in the West Bank and Gaza are almost non-existent.

As a result, the UN says, the demands on its services have increased dramatically in the last two years.

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The BBC's James Rodgers
"Most Palestinians fear the world is ignoring their plight whilst focusing on Iraq"

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29 Jan 03 | Middle East
02 Feb 03 | England
18 Nov 02 | Middle East
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