3rd Thursday Action Alert: Tell Congress to restore funding to UNRWA and bilateral assistance to Gaza and the West Bank

3rd_Thursday_logo.jpgThe Gaza Strip faces a chronic humanitarian crisis, impacting the livelihoods and access to essential services by its two million residents. The United Nations predicted in 2012 that conditions in Gaza would be unlivable by the year 2020 as a result of the Israeli blockade for more than 12 years. This crisis has been driven also by an unsolved internal Palestinian divide. Since March 2018, the crisis has been exacerbated by the massive increase in Palestinian casualties in the context of demonstrations taking place near Israel’s perimeter fence, as well as limited escalations in hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups.

Ninety-six percent of Gaza's water is unsafe to drink.  According to the European Union aid agency, “In the Gaza Strip, only 1 in 10 Palestinian families has access to safe drinking water, down from 60% a decade ago. Water infrastructure has deteriorated to the point that clinics have frequently had to shut down, at times when thousands of people needed treatment for injuries sustained during demonstrations.”

Gaza's two million residents have only intermittent access to electricity and the economy is near collapse. Half of Gaza's residents receive emergency food assistance from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Despite this crisis, the Administration announced in 2018 that it would stop all funding for UNRWA and later stopped assistance to the West Bank and Gaza.  Recently, though, Congress enacted legislation to restore some bilateral assistance to programs in the West Bank and Gaza for Fiscal Year 2020.

One observer has noted the continuing outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, in the West Bank and Israel and has warned, “If the Gaza Strip is hit by an outbreak of the disease, given the critical condition of the enclave's medical system, there will be a need to declare a mass home quarantine for Gaza residents.”

In mid-February, Rep. Pocan (D-Wisc.) and Rep. Dingell (D-Mich.) sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging the Trump administration to alleviate the ongoing crisis by restoring all humanitarian assistance and working to end the Gaza blockade.

Earlier this month, 18 churches and church-related organizations, including Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, sent a letter to Congress seeking funding to support UNRWA and, for Fiscal Year 2021, urging that funding be restored at least to the previous level of $225 million for bilateral humanitarian and development programs in the West Bank and Gaza.

Take Action Today:  Please thank Members who signed the Pocan-Dingell letter and urge Members to support funding for UNRWA and bilateral assistance to the West Bank and Gaza.

Feel free to use the following suggested text if helpful in communicating with your members of congress:

Dear …,

The Gaza Strip faces a chronic humanitarian crisis, impacting the livelihoods and access to essential services by its two million residents.

Ninety-six percent of Gaza's water is unsafe to drink.  According to the European Union aid agency, “In the Gaza Strip, only 1 in 10 Palestinian families has access to safe drinking water, down from 60% a decade ago. Water infrastructure has deteriorated to the point that clinics have frequently had to shut down, at times when thousands of people needed treatment for injuries sustained during demonstrations.”

Gazans have approximately 12 hours per day of electricity and the economy is near collapse. Half of Gaza's residents receive emergency food assistance from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

One observer has noted the continuing outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the West Bank and Israel and has warned, “If the Gaza Strip is hit by an outbreak of the disease, given the critical condition of the enclave's medical system, there will be a need to declare a mass home quarantine for Gaza residents.”

While the Administration stopped US assistance to UNRWA and bilateral assistance to programs in the West Bank and Gaza in 2018, I am grateful that Congress enacted legislation to restore some bilateral assistance to the West Bank and Gaza for Fiscal Year 2020. 

I therefore urge you to:

Restore U.S. assistance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA); and

Restore, at least to their previous level of $225 million, Economic Support Funds (ESF) for bilateral humanitarian and development programs in the West Bank and Gaza.


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