Posted on 17 December 2018

Foreword to the Humanitarian Response Plan 2019

By the Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick

The Humanitarian Response Plan for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) for 2019 requests a total of US$350 million. This reflects a reduction by $200 million compared to last year. Overall, 1.4 million will be targeted in 2019, as compared to 1.9 million in 2018. This lower number in requested funding and targeted people does however not reflect a reduction in the level of humanitarian need in the oPt. On the contrary - this year has seen a serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), particularly in Gaza, with recurrent outbreaks of violence and an enormous rise in casualties from the “Great March of Return” demonstrations.

In addition to the rising needs, humanitarian actors have faced record low funding levels in 2018, following the decision by the US to cut its financial support for humanitarian assistance for the oPt, which has affected primarily UNRWA, and some INGOs in the humanitarian community. This trend is likely to continue in 2019, with other donors indicating that at best current funding levels will be maintained.

Humanitarian actors in the oPt are further facing an increasingly constrained operational environment, with politically motivated groups seeking to undermine some UN and NGO operations. Time and effort spent on rebutting spurious allegations is diverting the attention of managers from operational priorities.

Recognizing that the humanitarian situation, resources required to meet needs and operating space will not improve in the foreseeable future, we are shifting away from a ‘business as usual’ approach. Following extensive consultations in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza with all key stakeholders, we have recalibrated our response to come up with a new plan for 2019 to reflect the current realities in which we operate. The full range of humanitarian needs is set out in detail in the accompanying Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO), with some 2.5 million people identified as in need of humanitarian assistance and protection in 2019. In targeting 1.4 million people of these for humanitarian assistance, the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) is based on the maximum number of vulnerable people we believe we can realistically reach in the current non-conducive political and resource climate.

Due to the enormous rise in casualties from the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations at the Gaza fence, with injuries having surpassed those recorded during the 2014 Gaza hostilities, funding requested for health is the only one that has gone up to reflect the surge in demand on the already overburdened health sector in Gaza. Overall, however, humanitarian needs remain high. The World Bank described Gaza’s economy as in ‘freefall’ with socio-economic indicators such as unemployment, poverty and food insecurity being on the rise. Economic growth is also declining the West Bank where settlement expansion, settler violence, demolitions and evictions are intensifying the coercive environment on vulnerable Palestinian communities. We therefore maintain the centrality of protection as a shared system-wide responsibility.

During the consultation process, donors expressed their appreciation for a focused and targeted HRP. Accordingly, we expect that our partners will increase their funding to enable us to meet the most urgent of priority needs in the oPt, to protect the rights of Palestinians under occupation and provide basic services for the most vulnerable. More contributions - in particular ongoing commitments to ensure continuity in assistance, rather than one-time disbursements - and support for operational space would enable us to do more in supporting the ability of Palestinians to cope with, and overcome, the effects of the protracted crisis while more sustainable solutions are sought.