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ICRC assistance programmes in the Palestinian territories – the needs persist


In May 2002, when the ICRC launched its assistance programmes for people hardest-hit by the violence wracking Israel, the Occupied and Autonomous Territories, it was seen as a short-term move. But one year on, with the situation worsening for the most vulnerable, the relief action has been extended.

Since March 2002 Israel, the Occupied and Autonomous Territories have seen a continuing trend of violence. Under the impact of ongoing Israeli military operations, curfews and closures, the living conditions of the Palestinian population have deteriorated seriously. Although the protection of the civilian population has been the underlying priority of its activities in this context, the ICRC launched in May 2002 two large-scale temporary assistance programmes for the poorest sections of the rural and urban population. In financial terms, these programmes alone amounted to 65% of the 2003 budget of USD 44.5 million.


Ref. IL-E-00052 

The cumulative effect of lack of access to income and basic goods and services has caused a systemic collapse in the economy, which goes far beyond a humanitarian crisis to be addressed solely with assistance. Humanitarian assistance cannot relieve Israel of its obligations towards the Palestinian populations in the Occupied Territories.

The Israeli authorities are urged to reconcile their legitimate security needs with their obligations under international humanitarian law; the adverse effects of their security measures on the civilian population must be minimised, in order to allow Palestinian people to live as normal a life as possible.

The ICRC emergency relief pr ogrammes outlined below are intended as a time-limited response to the urgent needs of the destitute parts of the population.


 Rural relief programme  

The rural population in the West Bank has been particularly affected by lengthy closures and curfews. With this relief programme, the ICRC aims at providing economic support, in the form of food, sports or school kits and hygiene parcels, to approximately 30,000 vulnerable families in 319 villages.

The programme targets destitute families, including social cases registered by the Palestinian ministry of social affairs. Other beneficiaries are selected through village councils on the basis of those in greatest need at a given time.

From October 2002 to May 2003, 10'324 metric tonnes of food has been distributed to a total of 61,821 families. School kits or sports kits were distributed to almost 22,000 families and hygiene parcels to some 4,000 families.

The ICRC has faced considerable logistic challenges, including delays and limited access to many villages, which have been overcome by securing the removal of earth walls and opening of locked gates by the Israeli Authorities.

 Urban voucher programme   

Prolonged curfews and closures and repeated military incursions in the West Bank have led many families to endure long periods without work or income. Tight restrictions on movement prevent the immediate needs of urban dwellers from being met. In the longer term, concerns centre around households'decreasing purchasing power: families are losing their abil ity to cope and their capacity to sustain themselves.




In May 2002, the ICRC initiated a programme in which 20,000 of the most vulnerable families in urban centres in the West Bank are able to access, through local suppliers, a range of essential goods that are currently beyond their financial means. Each month, families receive vouchers worth USD 90 that can be exchanged in selected shops for food and other household items.

The urban voucher programme covers nine of the largest towns in the West Bank with 4,000 beneficiary families in Nablus, 3,000 each in Ramallah and Hebron, 2,900 in Bethlehem, 2,600 in Jenin, 1,600 in Tulkarem, 1,400 in Qalqilya, 1,000 in Jericho and 500 in Salfit.

The programme aims to:

  • provide economic support (valued at half the average monthly household expenditure of a family of modest means),

  • preserve the dignity of beneficiaries by allowing them choice and flexibility to make their own decisions in purchasing essential commodities and

  • support the local economy through working with local merchants and increasing the purchasing power of beneficiaries.

From October 2002 to May 2003, just under 90,000 families received vouchers altogether worth more than ten million US dollars.

There were significant difficulties in implementing the programme in the last quarter of 2002, especially in Jenin and Nablus, due to prolonged and repeated curfews. This pattern continued in January and February 2003. However, in the past three months the number of delays, due to incursions and curfews, has been reduced and this has put the programme back on track.

 Review and monitoring of relief programmes  

The ICRC relief teams in the West Bank districts continuously monitor the implementation and impact of the relief programmes. In the rural areas, the monitors make random visits to beneficiaries to assess both what they receive and the use they make of it. They also determine if the beneficiary fits the criteria set by the ICRC and that the village council is being transparent in its role of distributing ICRC goods.


Ref. IL-E-00058 


In the first few months of 2003, the ICRC's relief and protection departments began making a systematic assessment of the level of vulnerability in the rural areas as a direct result of the closure policy.

In the urban programme, the monitoring teams perform targeted visits to beneficiary families to assess their situation. Those who do not meet the ICRC criteria are excluded from the list. They also monitor the contracted shops to ensure that the procedures set into place are being followed. With the data provided by the shop owners on the goods that the beneficiaries purchase with their vouchers, they also try to assess trends in the social and economic situation on household level.

During the first quarter of 2003, the ICRC commissioned an external review to assess the impact of the two main relief programmes and to carry out a needs assessment in both urban and rural areas. Additionally, in May an external consultant carried out an assessment and review of the Hebron programme in order to assess needs and programme impact. The results of this study have endorsed the relevance of the programmes.

 Relief programme for Hebron  

The ICRC is providing relief assistance, in the form of food parcels, to families in Hebron's old city, affected by prolonged curfews. Over the eight months from October to the end of May 2003, the ICRC was able to assist 2,000 families each month, according to their needs in relation to curfew and closure policy. A total of more than 15,400 families have been assisted with food parcels and supplementary food items (olive oil, wheat flour and tuna). With curfews continuing, the situation in Hebron is expected to deteriorate further.

 House destruction relief programme  

The programme aims at providing people whose houses have been destroyed, or substantially damaged, with essential non-food items such as tents, blankets, buckets, hygiene supplies and kitchen sets.

During the past eight months the ICRC has provided these relief kits to more than 2,000 families in Gaza and 353 in the West Bank.

 Emergency assistance for special needs  

From October 2002 to May 2003 more than 7,300 food parcels and 191 tonnes of wheat flour were distributed in the West Bank to exceptional cases not covered by the other programmes, including special schools and old age pensioners .